The Republican plan to get rid of the Affordable Care Act is comparable to slavery and a form of “political murder,” said fiery North Carolina preacher Rev. William Barber.
Speaking with the website Vox hours after the Senate released its health care bill Thursday night, Barber launched into a tirade against the two bills now under consideration in the U.S. Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“We’re really talking about, in a sense, political murder,” Barber told Vox. “I know that’s a strong term, but it comes out of the Bible. “The Bible talks about in Ezekiel 22, when politicians become like wolves devouring the people and do not care for the needy.”
Barber, who began North Carolina’s ‘Moral Monday’ protests and recently stepped down as president of the N.C. NAACP, now helps organize national NAACP political efforts and leads a group called the Poor People’s Campaign.
In North Carolina, approximately 600,000 people get their health insurance through Obamacare – more than in all but three other states.
Barber pointed to studies that have found the House GOP’s plan, called the American Health Care Act, would create large tax cuts for wealthy people and also lead to 23 million fewer people having health insurance nationwide.
“You’ve not seen this kind of attack on poor people and poor bodies since the days black people were used to make free money as slaves,” Barber told Vox. “That’s the way we need to start talking about this.”
But Dallas Woodhouse, the North Carolina Republican Party’s executive director, said that’s exactly how not to talk about the bill.
“This type of rhetoric is disgusting, and unchristian,” Woodhouse wrote in an email. “It is even more despicable coming from a political charlatan, who does it while putting a collar (on) and showing himself to be a false prophet.”
Woodhouse also defended the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, calling it a failing system in need of an overhaul.
Premiums for Obamacare plans under Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina – which is the only option for people in all but 5 counties statewide – have more than doubled since 2014. And the company requested another 23 percent increase for next year.
“Even if you think Obamacare is a good idea, reasonable people realize it is collapsing daily, with insurance companies pulling out of the exchanges and premiums soaring beyond reach,” Woodhouse said. “Republicans are trying to fix a disaster that was handed to them, because doing nothing will only hurt everyone when the system finally falls on its own weight.”
Barber, however, said efforts to reform health care should be aimed at getting closer to universal health care, not further from it. He said that among the world’s most advanced countries, only the U.S. doesn’t have universal health care, which is true.
Barber said the GOP plans have no equal in U.S. history since Reconstruction.
“And the last time I can remember in history we talked about taking health care away like this was when in the 1800s ... and there was this real, extreme, regressive group of people who wanted to go back to the days of slavery, or as close as possible” Barber told Vox.
He was talking about the Freedman’s Bureau, a government program enacted in 1865 to help former slaves access health care and other basic services. It lasted less than a decade before Congress shut it down, under pressure from white Southern politicians.
Barber’s wide-ranging interview also touched on the attack last week in Washington, D.C., that ended with several people wounded, including Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives.
Barber called Republicans “hypocritical” to ask for prayers for Scalise’s recovery while at the same time pushing to take health coverage away from millions of people.
And Barber isn’t the only high-profile North Carolinian attacking the plans to repeal Obamacare.
On Friday, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper sent out an email urging supporters to contact North Carolina’s U.S. senators, Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and urge them to vote against the bill.
“Senate Republicans kept their health care plan secret for weeks,” Cooper said. “Now we know why. The plan they unveiled yesterday takes us backward. Their plan especially hurts those who can least afford it – children, seniors, and the disabled.”
Doran: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @will_doran