Former Athens-Clarke County mayoral candidate Tim Denson (pictured at left), University of Georgia student Adam Veale and Athens for Everyone board member Adam Lassila were among 12 people arrested this afternoon during a demonstration in favor of expanding Medicaid at the state Capitol.
According to a news release from Athens for Everyone:
The three were among a larger group of Athenians attending the rally and were taken into custody during a sit-in on the Capitol's south steps. The day of lobbying and mobilization at the Capitol was organized by Moral Monday GA and brought additional pressure upon the state government to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid.
Georgia is one of 23 states to opt out of this portion of the Affordable Care Act, which would provide health coverage for around 650,000 currently uninsured low-income Georgians. Studies have indicated that three to 10 Georgians are dying per day as a result of blocking Medicaid expansion.
State officials have been looking for a way to expand coverage without appearing to give in to the demands of protesters or give President Obama a political win. Refusing to expand Medicaid under the ACA will cost the state an estimated $33.7 billion in federal funds over the next ten years, if the Golden [sic] Dome doesn't change course.
Lassila spoke to the crowd at the demonstration. He said, "I recently suffered a serious head injury. Luckily, I hurt myself in Argentina, where I was able to receive extensive, high-quality, completely free health care. In my home state of Georgia, I would have received only the initial emergency treatments, and would have been stuck with thousands of dollars in medical debt. Too many other Georgians in the Medicaid gap aren't lucky enough to be outside the country when they get sick."
Tim Denson said, "We have the ability to save people’s lives, to save failing hospitals, and to save people’s jobs. We must stop playing politics with people’s lives and expand Medicaid now."
All three arrested Athenians, along with several other demonstrators, are members of the new activist organization Athens for Everyone, which elected its board at a public meeting on Saturday.
UPDATE Mar. 3: All three were released from jail this morning.