Jon Stewart joins 9/11 first responders to save health program

Mar 5, 2018
In The News

WASHINGTON – Comedian Jon Stewart joined 9/11 first responders at the Capitol Monday to speak against proposed changes to World Trade Center Health Program tucked inside President Trump’s 2019 budget.

“I cannot believe that a fellow New Yorker, President Trump, has been fully briefed and is in agreement with OMB’s [the Office of Management & Budget] decision,” said Terence Opiola, 50, a retired Homeland Security Special Agent who suffers from 9/11-related leukemia and respiratory ailments.

“President Trump has been a supporter of 9/11 first responders and programs. I truly believe that if he knew that 9/11 health community was not part of OMB Director Mulvaney’s decision he would be as upset as we are today.”

The president’s 2019 budget calls for the separation of the special health program from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which would see its budget cut from $335 million to $200 million. The health care program that provides care for patients suffering from 9/11 health conditions would instead be administered by the Centers for Disease Control.

New York members of Congress, led by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Peter King and Jerrold Nadler, said the proposal violates the law they helped pass in 2015 to extend the Zadroga Act for 75 years to ensure sick 9/11 first responders have access to free medical care.

They say they weren’t consulted about the proposed changes and have gotten no guidance on why a program they deem successful would be carved out for upheaval.

“This is Mulvaney,” said King (R-L.I). “Mulvaney, when he was in the House in 2015, when the program was already in effect for five years and working flawlessly, he voted against reauthorizing it. He never supported the program. … He’s voted against New York.”

First responders said not knowing the fate of their live-saving treatment program is creating stress and anxiety.

“When I knew I had healthcare locked in for 75 years, it made me extremely happy and it took a huge burden off of my family,” Opiola told The Post. “Now there’s an unknown.”

Stewart, who has been a longtime advocate for the Zadroga Act, challenged Mulvaney to meet with the sick first responders and explain why he’s “screwing them.”

But Stewart quipped that Mulvaney must be busy: “He’s scheduled, I believe, at 1 pm for a session of punching babies.”