RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Over 100 protesters with four caskets in tow made for a dramatic demonstration in downtown Raleigh Monday afternoon.
North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said the caskets are a sober reminder of what's at stake if North Carolina continues to block the Medicaid expansion. Critics called the protests an offensive stunt.
Barber and his coalition of liberal groups softly sang spirituals as they marched with four caskets to the General Assembly. They said the caskets represent the 2,800 North Carolinians who will die this year because of the Republican-controlled legislature's refusal to expand the health insurance program for low-income or disabled citizens.
Conservatives blasted the protest as offensive. They insist the refusal to expand Medicaid is because the system is broken.
Both sides used the day to make a political argument about the much-publicized U.S. Senate battle between Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis.
"It's a stark reminder of why people must vote because voting is more than just voting for a person, but voting to turn a policy," said Barber. "Today is a reminder that policy can cause death, policies can cause hospitals to close."
"The fact that we didn't expand Medicaid is because Medicaid is a bad deal for patients in North Carolina and the fact that the legislature didn't expand it doesn't make them murderers", said Dallas Woodhouse, President of conservative advocacy group Carolina Rising. "People should not stand with Kay Hagan and Rev. Barber in this disgusting tactic."
Gov. Pat McCrory's signaled once again Monday that he is willing to reconsider Medicaid expansion, but he offered no timetable on when that might happen.
"At this time, no we will not expand Medicaid, but the governor has continually kept the door open to the possibility," said McCrory spokesperson Ryan Tronovitch. "While we have made great progress in a short period of time at DHHS, we are still studying the ramifications of expansion."