I had a choice this morning. I could stand with protesters outside the Governor’s Western Residence in Asheville or I could try to get into the open house to address him personally.
I decided to try and get to him.
We started driving to the residence, but when we turned up Town Mountain Road, we were told we’d never get in unless we went to First Baptist Church and waited for the shuttle.
We waited for almost an hour. The event was supposed to start at 9:30, but we didn’t get onto the shuttle until 10:20. When we got to the house, we were told we had 15 minutes, so I went outside, where the governor was standing beside the fire pit.
“Hi, I’m Pat,” he said.
“I’m Leslie,” I said and lifted up the photo of my late son. “This is Mike, who died after being denied access to care.”
He noticed a microphone on my collar. Robin Carter had placed it there in case she was able to video the encounter. She wasn’t allowed.
“I’m not talking to anyone who’s miked,” he said.
“Well, perhaps you’ll listen,” I answered.
I told him about Mike and about how five to seven people are dying every day in this state because he and his colleagues in the General Assembly have refused to expand Medicaid.
He countered that he tried to talk to President Obama about adding a work requirement, and I told him 70 percent of people who would be eligible for Medicaid work already, and virtually all of the rest are unable to work. I told him how hard a worker my son was, and that he was never looking for a handout, just someone who would be willing to help him stay alive.
“People who need Medicaid aren’t lazy, and they’re not greedy,” I said.
I didn’t add that the people who block access to health care are the takers. I was trying to be calm and polite.
“Well, Medicaid was a mess before I took office,” he said.
Yes it was, because in 2010, the Republicans took over the General Assembly and slashed funding so badly that the Republican secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services resigned rather than preside over such carnage. Before 2010, North Carolina’s Medicaid program was a national model.
But I didn’t have time to tell him that because he had already interrupted me to say he’s expanding access to Medicaid for people with autism.
I told him my benchmark is whether it would have given my son access to care, and adding in a few hundred people wouldn’t have done that. I also told him I don’t think privatizing Medicaid will work any better than privatizing mental health care a decade ago did.
He was happy to talk about the implosion of the state’s mental health system because that was done before he took office. I could see his eyes light up.
“Yes! That system is a mess, and so is treatment for addiction,” he said. “We really need to do something about that.”
But since the majority of people who have addiction don’t respond to treatment the first time, what should we do?
Prevention. That 14-year-old who had surgery probably doesn’t need opiates to deal with his pain, at least not for more than a few days, McCrory said. You give it to him for a month or more and you’ve created another addict.
Of course, this means we can’t have legalization of pot and the windfall of tax money that would come with it, but that’s an issue for another day.
My friends, Robin Carter and Matt Graunke wanted to talk about HB2, but we got the same answers he’s been giving to the media.
“I was on NPR,” he said, as though NPR only interviews reasonable people. He also said the law is about privacy, but when challenged about the privacy of a trans person who only wants to go into a stall and pee, that was different, of course.
He talked about wanting to protect women and both Robin and I said we had been assaulted or abused in places other than rest rooms by people our families knew and trusted, and that since we are adults now, we think women should have been consulted about whether we even think we need protection from trans people in bathrooms.
Frankly, I think we need protection from people like the governor and his friends in the General Assembly, because while they’re distracting us with talk about trans people in bathrooms, innocent people are dying — five to seven people every day, week in and week out, year after year.
When he said he felt sorry about how my son died, my question was whether he would be willing to say that to the 8,000 families of people who have died since he signed the law denying Medicaid expansion. Every one of those families is in just as much pain as mine.
But, hey, after many, many attempts to talk to him, after two arrests for “trespassing” on public property, after being locked out of the state house so he didn’t have to talk to me, I finally got some face time with him.
I only wish I had been able to make him see how his policies are killing innocent people.
At least he didn’t tell me he’s pro-life.