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Activists Rally For East Palestine Residents To Get Free Health Care

Health care activists expressed their support for people in East Palestine and surrounding communities.

Joy Marie Mann was not expecting a large crowd Friday night, but she was heartened that some of her close friends and fellow activists traveled from across the country to meet ahead of a health care rally in Ohio.

“They’re just very passionate people who are just very caring and support nationally improved ‘Medicare for All’ and believe in human rights,” said Marie Mann, a health care activist from Harrisburg.

In between interviews, speeches and a short candlelight vigil, Mann and the other activists at Schenley Park spoke to each other about their plans to attend a “Medicare for All” rally in Lisbon, Ohio. The rally, which is happening outside the Columbiana Court House Saturday, has been promoted as “March for Medicare for All Rally and Mutual Aid for East Palestine.”

“What should happen when there’s a disaster like that is the government should be there fighting for the people on the ground,” said Zach Schimel, 18, who traveled from Chicago with his mother. He plans on addressing the assembled crowd Saturday.

Mann, Schimel and others have pointed to Social Security Act 1881A, which provides Medicare coverage for people exposed to environmental health hazards.

Shortly after an obscure provision of the Affordable Care Act amended the Social Security Act to expand Medicare coverage to those affected by an environmental hazard, people in Libby, Montana, were deemed eligible for Medicare. The provision was included in the Affordable Care Act to help the residents after they were exposed to asbestos from a vermiculite mine.

“East Palestine definitely qualifies,” Schimel said. “It’s an emergency type of situation.”

It’s unclear if people in East Palestine and surrounding communities would qualify for Medicare under this provision, given that the pertinent conditions described in the statute are asbestos-related conditions.

Earlier this week, after people from East Palestine and Beaver County gathered in Darlington to learn about independent test results revealing high dioxin levels, an East Palestine resident told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 that she and her neighbors should be treated like people in Libby, Montana.

“What I would like to see is a plan put in place — a robust medical health screening plan — for anybody who wants it,” Jess Conard said Wednesday.

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