The 9/11 Responder Health Bill – The Problems

The health bill for 9/11 first responders passed the U.S. Senate today. With Republicans opponents fiercely fighting the bill’s previous language, can we assume the problems are truly fixed? All legitimate ills from the 9/11 wreckage should be paid for by a grateful American citizenry, but done responsibly. Not an easy task for a wildly frivolous Congress.

9/11 Responders Surrounded by Toxins

The bill was reduced from an overall cost of $7.4 billion to $4.2 billion, and will be fully paid for from a 2 percent excise fee on foreign companies receiving U.S. government contracts.

Unexplained measures to reduce fraud were added. Attorney’s fees are limited to 10 percent of any settlement or award.The program was reduced from 8 years to 5 years, and will permanently close at the end of that 5 year period. The original bill closed the program in 2031. Unless Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) or any other senator asks for more, as Gillibrand say they will do if necessary.

Although the legislation will now become law, it is important to understand why some conservatives objected to the original bill. Here is a small portion of a letter from a NYC police officer who was a 9/11 responder – found at The Lonely Conservative:

For one, do you even know what the bill would provide? While it’s being touted as health benefits for the 9/11 workers, it’s not like they are going to be getting money to pay for their care. Just because a bill is called something doesn’t mean that’s what it is. Politicians of all stripes cloak their taxing ways to hide the true intent.

Rather than just pay for health benefits, it will lavish hundreds of millions of dollars on “health centers” to provide free care. While there are 10,000 names of people in the settlement group, it is open ended because it could provide care to many times that number for people who “may have” breathed in the toxic dust. It becomes a giveaway to people completely unaffected by actually having been there at Ground Zero.

While Liberals reveled in characterizing Republican opponents as not giving a fig about those heros on that terrible day, the simple fact is, those opponents simply wanted the legislation to provide good and efficient services – responsibly.

A settlement of $600 million to $725 million has already been paid to “more than 95 percent of the rescue, recovery and clean-up workers who have filed claims.” I believe those who did receive compensation will be ineligible to receive the new funds.

While Republicans suggested putting the legislation off until the January session would give more time to come to a consensus, Democrats said it had taken years and there was no time to spare – yet the fact is, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand fast-tracked the bill through to the vote, skirting much of the Committee process.

From what I’m reading, Coburn can crow all he wants that the legislation got “fixed” suitably, but I don’t think it did. Coburn was able to win a portion of the battle then gave in. Only time will tell whether we have another piece of feckless legislation which will ply the NYC health systems with billions, doing little for the suffering responders. The question remains, why, since the bill has lingered for years, could it not continue to wait until mid-January 2011? I hope you will go to The Lonely Conservative and read the police officer’s letter. Western Hero has written a fine article explaining how and why everything works just great without this latest government intrusion, as well as what Net Neutrality will do to your service.

  • Thanks for the link, Maggie. I live in New York. I want to see anyone harmed by 9/11 to get help. At the same time, I know the Democrats never let a crisis go to waste. Kirsten Gillibrand got her 15 minutes in the spotlight. Today she was on TV calling it a Christmas miracle that she and Chuck Schumer brought about. They passed a bad bill adding more layers to our already obese bloated government when they could have just provided funding for the medical care. But they got everyone all worked up into a frenzy and tugged on heart strings during the Christmas season and now we have another lousy piece of legislation.

    • LC, I’m afraid it is a bad bill. I can’t find the text of it. Hidden away I’m sure. I do think Coburn caved. Like you, we need to do this and do it right. The comment from Tired 1st Responder is likely a small sample of what is happening to those who worked but did not work for the city (unions). I wanted to gag listening to Shep Smith.

  • Pingback: The Problem with the 9/11 Health Care Bill | The Lonely Conservative()

  • Tired 1st responder

    To rebut the comments. I was a volunteer 1st responder and I was not included in the 10,000 litigants of the NYC lawsuit for reasons mainly related to incompetence of the attorneys involved. Also I didn’t feel it was right they were taking 33% of money already pledged for our health care and turning the rest of the fund into a cash compensation settlement. I have many serious lung and other repiratory and other medical issues. I have been in the WTC treatment and monitoring program since its inception. I have paid thousands in Medical expenses and lost hundreds of hours of work. If you are a PD FD or Union employee you get compensated for lost time via your union contract. But I am self employed and when I am in the Doctors office or hospital I am uemployed. Many of these people are already getting health benefits thru there unions who are trying to push it of on workmans comp who is trying to push it back top the unions. i.e. no one wants the financial burden. What they should have done was make them pay for their already insured and then the funds from this can go to those who really need it, the ones with no medical insurance. Not ones who are covered by entities who don’t want to pay. If you already got disability payments, the NYC lawsuit payment and some who already got the VCF payments shouldn’t be allowed to get even more money. What about those who haven’t gotten a dime to reimburse them for all their expenses and suffering. Like Me……………..

  • Tired 1st responder

    To Those Who Keep Saying The Taxpayers Are Paying For This Please Read The Bill!! We closed an off shore tax loop hole that now charges offshore corporations who do business with the US Government. The bill costs them 2% it costs the US taxpayers nothing. Zero, Nada, Get It!! And if you are a taxpayer and feel that if you had to pay for this you shouldn’t, send me your name because we want to send you a special ID bracelet so we know who you are. Then if you or one of your loved ones ever need a 1st responder we want to make sure you get what you are willing to pay for. Remember I was a volunteer, it means I was not paid for my services, so why should I have to pay for my injuries resulting from this attack against our country. Injured war heroes are taken care of for life and so should we. I don’t see any difference between the attack on the WTC and the attack on Pearl Harbor and those civilians who helped and were killed or injured then. These were attacks against our country not just an attack against NYC or Myself. It made me proud to be an American (NOT) the day I had to go from senator to senators office begging them to pass this while in terrible pain. Not one had enough respect for us to even give us an audience. What ever happened to UNITED WE STAND? Remember to support your 1st responders as you never know when you will need one. Especially the Volunteers We Work For Free.

  • Tired 1st Responder, no one here said taxpayers are paying for this bill. We understand how this is done. So,…

  • This was a no-win situation for the GOP. We’ve long ago become an ignorant populace, swayed more by emotion that facts and logic. And the Dems don’t have monopoly on tactics like this. The GOP employs them as well.

    This program could have been as simple as establishing who it was for, by name, and then handing each one a health program card that they would use to get medical care. But instead, as you detail in this excellent post, it has become a grab bag for lawyers and “Dear Leader Obama” community health centers. BTW, when the money from this program runs dry, we will be hearing about the plight of these centers and how the funding has dried up and that it would be a tragedy to close them…

    Again, this was no-win for the GOP. This issue was just too emotional, and the advocated plucked the heartstrings well.

    • Silver, I am so upset that Coburn did not hold to his stance. It would have taken only about another month, then the graft and greed could have could cut out.

      As to the after effects, Gillibrand said they can just come back for more after 5 years.

      The idea of the medical card would be a good way to handle this devastating problem.

  • 1st Responder. Your message, “We are volunteers, we work for free, now pay us,” is self-contradictory. Having said that, I do understand your point, and I support you and people like you receiving compensation.

    Were you a first responder or did you volunteer to clean up after?

    This is an important distinction. Firefighters, police, medical personnel and other paid public employees should already be receiving all medical care because it was part of their contract. People are asking why they need these additional funds. Did the City and State of NY renege on health care benefit promises?

    Volunteers are in a different category, and I can understand they would need such a program.

    I am not criticizing you, just giving you a citizen’s point of view. I am also a veteran who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf post-9/11.

    As I said in my previous post, government (God knows we have enough regulators) should have stared down the insurance companies and threatened them with action if they dropped or refused to cover any previously covered 9/11 person. Then they could deal with the non-covered by simply issuing them an insurance card that would pay for 9/11-related illnesses.

    I think that is what you were saying in your first post. When lawyers and politicians get involved, truth and clarity is the first casualty.

    I pray this program benefits you and other who volunteered, and I also pray it doesn’t become another wasteful government boondoggle.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Silver, thanks for this excellent reply to Tired 1st Responder. It has to be terrible to be caught up in this, and then to have lung problems on top of it, with no help from anyone is unacceptable.

  • This is America, and we do owe it to those who volunteered, but unfortunately this has become a political football. This is a prime example of what happens when the DC hogs and sharks get involved. The political sharpies use victims to advance their agenda. If we still had a functioning press in this country, we could get a clear-eyed picture, but instead we are subjected to emotional appeals while the insiders line their pockets at the expense of those they purport to be helping.

  • Tired 1st responder

    I was a volunteer 1st responder. I was on site from 9/11 thru 9/17 only to help those we thought were trapped and could be saved, which only turned out to be two people of whom I was the 3rd person on the scene to help them get out alive. After the 2nd week it was deemed a clean up and recovery site and should have been treated as any other superfund site clean up, OSHA should have been on site monitoring all the workers and the conditions they were subjected to at that point. My message isn’t I was a volunteer now pay me. I was pushing more for them to include us in some kind of real health insurance program like the VA. The WTC medical monitoring health program is exactly that. Monitoring, but once you find out you actually need treatment it is an uphill battle of protocols and funding issues to get any kind of remedy. Start laying out thousands in cash out of your own pocket and suddenly instead of being a volunteer I’m paying to have rescued and recovered peoples loved ones. I imagine to some that seems fair, maybe I’m just thick headed or plain stupid, but to me it seems very, very wrong. The news makes it sound like we all hit the lottery, do the math even if you took the 30,000 some responders they say are effected which I find hard to believe myself and divide it into 2.6 billion that doesn’t even cover what I am paying in prescriptions for the rest of my days assuming I live another 10 to 15 years and thats being optimistic. If I even get anything I would be surprised, because as a volunteer I have no Unions pulling for me so they don’t have to pay. Which means as it has been so far I fall thru the cracks and in 10 years when I die homeless on the street then it will be a boo hoo big news story. Until that time I’m just going to slide back into the shadows from which I emerged. I don’t even tell people I was a rescue worker on 9/11 it’s more of a curse that something I can be proud of, it’s not like being a WWII war veteran who can be openly proud of his service to his country, my service only stirs up controversy, like a Viet Nam vet who was sick for being exposed to agent orange. It’s shameful to have to be treated this way for just rushing in trying to help……

  • Well, the bill has passed, so we’ll see how this pans out. I pray to God that the money goes to those who need it.

  • Pingback: Sunday Hunt For Links – Donkey Edition | Political Realities()