ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) – Three cities in western North Carolina held vigils calling for Medicaid expansion.

“Honoring the lives of those who have suffered and calling on change,” said Brenda Murphree of Indivisible Asheville/WNC which helped host the event. 

North Carolina and South Carolina are among 14 states that opted to not expand Medicaid with federal dollars from the Affordable Care Act.

“This is my son Michael,” said Leslie Boyd, holding his picture. “He died on april 1st 2008 because a birth defects is a preexisting condition. Healthcare is never a handout. Never. It is a basic human right.”

She was among the people standing in solidarity in downtown Asheville Wednesday calling for Medicaid expansion at one of 22 vigils across North Carolina.

“People are dying across north carolina each and every day we fail to expand medicaid. more than a thousand people die each year,” said Pisgah Legal Services attorney Jackie Kiger.

Medicaid is a federal and state program serving low-income people of all ages.

Advocates say legislators need to close the gap in healthcare by expanding Medicaid qualifications to hundreds of thousands more adults.

“I’m told by the state of north carolina that i make too much money for the medicaid system yet my taxable take home income isn’t enough to be part of the affordable healthcare act,” Joy Read said. 

The Associated Press reports more than 35 states expanded medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act.

“When we wait on healthcare, we leave our friends and community members here in western north carolina with terrible vulnerabilities and we allow the cycle of poverty to continue,” Kiger said. 

Advocates are urging the NC legislature to expand Medicaid in the next budget because right now its not included.

The NC Justice Center organized the vigils.

The other two in our are were held in Sylva and Marion.