'Moral Movement' pushes for special legislative session for Medi - WSMV Channel 4

'Moral Movement' pushes for special legislative session for Medicaid expansion

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

They are ministers, mothers, healthcare advocates, a cancer patient and a student. Together, they're members of a new collective called "The Moral Movement."

Their expressed goal is to speak up for the uninsured and the vulnerable. They say state lawmakers have been pushing policies that are morally indefensible.

"There are 280,000 people who don't have affordable and accessible healthcare," said Stephen Handy, the senior pastor of McKendree United Methodist Church and a leader in the group.

"I can't stop until I make this happen," said Kelly Gregory, a cancer patient who was once uninsured. "I don't want any other family to go through what my family is going to have to go through when I die."

Last week, the group of 11 people went to Gov. Bill Haslam's office to deliver a letter asking him to call a special legislative session to expand Medicaid.

They signed the governor's guest book under the name, “EXPAND MEDICAID.”

After waiting in the governor's office, singing and praying, the group, led by clergy, was arrested for criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct and were escorted out of the Capitol. Nine people in the group were cited and released. Ellen McPherson, a retired nurse practitioner and grandmother, and Fisk University student Justin Jones were arrested.

"We did not go to be arrested," McPherson said. "I've never been arrested, so of course it was upsetting."

McPherson and Jones were detained and held at the Metro jail until midnight.

"We've tried so many things. We've tried demonstrating. We've tried meeting with committees, we've tried meeting with people, and it just seemed time to just sit down and just wait for him," McPherson said about their decision to stake out the governor's office Tuesday afternoon.

At Monday's news conference, Telisha Cobb spoke about her struggle to conceive after the death of her daughter. The small business owner was arrested in the group Tuesday. She said she lost her healthcare insurance and was not able to conceive without special care.

"We were informed that had our daughter made it out of the hospital, we wouldn't have had healthcare for her when she got home," Cobb said. "After our daughter passed away, we wanted to grow our family and we didn't have the healthcare to do so, due to pre-existing conditions.”

Some of their faces are familiar to many lawmakers at the Capitol. Jones has protested for the passage of Insure TN for the last couple legislative sessions. In February, some of the protesters drove Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, out of a press conference after the lawmakers gathered to discuss an anti-gay marriage bill.

"We not going anywhere," Handy said. "We're going to be patient, but we're going to be assertive. We're going to make sure that we get a seat at the table with the governor and until we do that, you will see us more often. We will be more visible and this movement will continue to grow."

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