State News

North Carolinians rally on opposing sides of health care debate

Posted November 5, 2009 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2009 10:24 a.m. EST

— While some North Carolinians headed to Washington, D.C., to oppose to a Democrat-sponsored health care bill Thursday, others gathered at the State Capitol to say why they think the overhaul is vital.

Disagreement between the two groups centered on the government-run, or public, option included in a $1.2 trillion health-care overhaul bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Opponents of the public option hopped on a bus in Raleigh before dawn. They joined the group Americans for Prosperity for a noon protest at the Capitol building in D.C., then headed to visit their representatives to urge them to vote against the bill.

"If it passes, the government is going to choose what we can have, and I feel like it's important that we get to make our decisions and our own choices," said Betsy Gravitt, of Greensboro.

"I am absolutely convinced that I am on the side of the majority of Americans who do not want this program, who do not want it to become socialistic, who do not want to pile on debt," said Wes May, who added that he prefers the free enterprise system.

Representatives from a range of civil-rights group, though, gathered at the State Capitol in the late morning to say the health-care system is broken and one of the best remedies is a public option.

Protesters held giant yellow signs reading "I am human," to say that the issue is about people.

"We must help all our fellow Americans, and we need health care reform, and we need a strong public option," said Rev. William J. Barber, president of the NAACP North Carolina State Conference.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the national NAACP, visited the Raleigh rally while touring states considered pivotal to the health care vote. He said that most black people know someone who has died because of an ineffective health care policy.

"This is real. We will make decisions as citizens and lawmakers as to whether people live or die in the next decade," Jealous said.

The House is expected to vote on its version of the overhaul soon. It's unclear when the Senate might take up similar legislation.