RALEIGH (August 4, 2020) – As Missourians head to the polls to vote on the fate of Medicaid expansion and as the country faces the worst public health crisis in modern history, southerners in eight non-expansion states are uniting for the first time ever, to demand affordable healthcare for our essential workers, communities of color and rural hospitals.

The newly formed Southerners for Medicaid Expansion coalition will hold its inaugural event, a Southern Storyteller Spotlight interview on Thursday, August 6 at 12 pm EST. The first Spotlight will feature a North Carolina storyteller, LeShonda Wallace, who is a family nurse practitioner and HIV provider working in the southeastern part of the state.

Advocates from North Carolina will be joined by their coalition partners from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina to uplift the voices and experiences of southerners who have been impacted by our states’ refusal to expand Medicaid.

During the August 6 event, the Southerners for Medicaid Expansion coalition will release their new website which will feature resources and data from the eight non-Medicaid expansion states. We will also launch a joint petition to demand Medicaid expansion in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina.

Every Thursday leading up to October 1, a different state will feature a unique voice in the Southern Storyteller Spotlight to share how the denial of Medicaid expansion has impacted their residents, led to rural hospital closures, and exacerbated health disparities.

The Southern Storyteller Spotlight series will culminate on October 1 when candlelight vigils will take place simultaneously throughout the South in an action of solidarity and remembrance to honor the lives of people who are suffering from the denial of healthcare access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With over 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 and 56 rural hospital closures since 2014, expanding Medicaid would allow nearly 7.5 million people who are uninsured to gain coverage in these eight states that have denied healthcare access to their residents for far too long,” Hyun Namkoong, a policy advocate with the NC Justice Center said. “There has never been a more dire moment for the Southerners for Medicaid Expansion coalition to unite and fight for our people.”

“The southern states are also disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. The majority of people I care for are uninsured and underinsured,” Wallace said. “Medicaid expansion would cover expenses for care and assessments that people desperately need to be well and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”