Sept. 11 first responder health care funding under attack

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First responders gathered in Yardley, Pennsylvania today to demand that Congress continue to pay medical bills for firefighters, paramedics and police officers injured during the Sept. 11 attacks.  

Money is running out to care for those with lingering illnesses. 

Retired New York City firefighter Brian McGuire now lives in Bucks County. He was among the first responders on 9/11 and continues to suffer from respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. He has since developed sleep apnea and has battled mental health issues.

He said unless Congress acts, funding to care for first responders like him will run out next year.

“Without this reauthorization bill being passed by Congress, over 70,000 responders and survivors will lose necessary treatment and monitoring needed to survive,” he said.

Ellen Saracini’s husband was a pilot whose plane was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. She said it shouldn’t be this difficult to fund care for those who fought to save lives on 9/11.

“We have to remember and honor the valor of the first responders,” she said. ‘They were there for us and they will continue to be there for us whenever they are needed.”

Philadelphia Fire Fighters’ & Paramedics’ Union head Andrew Thomas said his members are paying a heavy price for volunteering on Sept. 11.

“25 percent of the members who went up there have a cancer or related illness and we know of one death,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County said he’s pushing for a reauthorization of the bill to care for the first responders to go through as early as this week now that a major barrier has been overcome.

“We believe we have found sufficient mechanisms to fully fund the $4 billion dollars of the reauthorization,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick said if approved this time around, the law would promise to cover first responders for the rest of their lives and not need to be renewed.

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