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Hofstra medical students rally for Affordable Care Act

Elizabeth Hayes, a third-year medical student at Hofstra

Elizabeth Hayes, a third-year medical student at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, affixes a sticky-note in favor of the Affordable Care Act to a banner at the medical school on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. Hayes was among nearly 70 Hofstra med students participating in a "national day of action" against repeal of the law. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Medical students at Hofstra University rallied Monday in support of the Affordable Care Act as plans are under way at the national level to repeal it, joining dozens of medical schools in what was billed as a “national day of action.”

Nearly 70 students, dressed in lab coats, gathered in the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine’s lobby for the event promoted on social media as the “DoNoHarm Medical Student Day of Solidarity.”

Demonstrations and teach-ins were scheduled at medical schools across the country, including in Washington, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, according to organizers.

Pratiksha Yalakkishettar, 23, a second-year medical student, said she and several classmates organized the event at Hofstra. She called it “nonpartisan.”

“We’re all worried as future health care providers,” said Yalakkishettar, of Andover, Massachusetts. “This is one of the topics that can bring people together.”

The 2010 law widely known as Obamacare, which covers 20 million people, essentially required Americans to secure health care with state Medicaid or subsidized private coverage plans.

Republicans generally support its repeal, citing its burden on small businesses and rising premiums, but are divided on how soon a new policy should take effect.

President Donald Trump has praised some portions of the law, including provisions that allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and that bar insurers from discriminating based on a patient’s pre-existing conditions.

The Hofstra students stood in front of a poster board asking: “What Does Accessible and Affordable Health Care Mean To You?”

Attached to the board were green, blue, yellow and orange sticky notes, with students’ responses. Those included “not being asked for my papers,” “preventing easily avoidable morbidity and mortality” and “being able to understand my health insurance policy.”

Mallory Highstein, 25, a fourth-year medical student from East Brunswick, New Jersey, said, “It’s important to say we’re the future of medicine, and this is how we feel.”

Organizers Bonnie Bentson and Briana Rice, both 24 and second-year medical students, said they attended the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21 and were inspired to become campus health care advocates. They are creating an organization to promote activism at the Hempstead university, and plan to call it the Hofstra Northwell Protect Our Patients Group, the students said.

“We really want to think about this as a school, how a repeal without a replacement would affect our patients and even ourselves,” said Bentson, of Minneapolis.

Rice, of Aiken, South Carolina, said the gathering, arranged quickly as a social media movement grew, was an initial show of support in coordination with students planning similar events at other universities. She added that she hopes more students join the campus group to “open up the door for more discussion.”

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