The mood was jovial as about 30 activists in town celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Healthcare Act on Wednesday.
Celebratory songs and cheering punctuated the meeting, held at the Gaffney Health Services building. Toward the end, one attendee broke into a gospel rendition of "Do You Know the Man from Galilee."
Groups represented at the meeting included the Charlotte Healthcare Coalition, ActionNC and the League of Women voters among others.
"Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling is a tremendous victory for American families," said Pat McCoy, executive director of Action NC. "Despite our opponents' relentless efforts to dismantle the law, President Obama and thousands of healthcare advocates like yourselves have stood behind the Affordable Healthcare Act and pressed forward to implement it after its passage."
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires that every American have insurance or pay a penalty - a tax that the Supreme Court affirmed on Thursday as constitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee, sided with the left of the court in the 5-4 decision.
Other speakers at Thursday's meeting included two college students and Leslie Boyd, who founded Life o' Mike, a healthcare advocacy group named after her son, who was uninsured when he died of cancer in 2008.
"I'm here to show that uninsured people aren't bums and they aren't lazy," Boyd said.
She added that her son encouraged her to play the "dead-kid card" if it would help the estimated 45,000 Americans who die uninsured every year find coverage.
"We won today. We just saved a lot of those lives today," she told the crowd.
The Charlotte Healthcare Coalition is an advocacy group formed in 2007 when rumors of healthcare reform emerged from Washington. Carla Cunningham, a nurse at the time, formed a group to discuss the best way to help implement change in the healthcare system. Eventually, Action NC, the NAACP, doctors and labor groups joined. The group met weekly to discuss how to inform the public about healthcare reform. Members staged events such as the Unity March in 2009, which drew over 500 people from across the state.
"We felt like the immoral practices regarding the pre-existing conditions were going to impact so many people," Cunningham said. "We initially wanted a single payer system but as we realized that the legislation would not be passed, we buckled down and took what we could get."