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Cyrus Dugger

Congress Rejects Aid For Sick 9/11 Responders: Puts Financial Safety Over Human Safety

Yesterday, Republican Senators blocked Senator Clinton's proposal to fund almost 2 billion for medical treatment for sick 9/11 responders. As reported in NYC's Daily News:

Senate leaders invoked parliamentary rules, saying Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.)amendment to a measure funding port security was not "germane." NY Daily News

As I have repeatedly explained this past week (1,2,3), the federal government’s response to the environmental effect of the WTC Ground Zero site almost precisely follow the profits over safety business model sometimes adopted by corporations.

This recent denial of comprehensive funding by the Senate further supports this characterization of the governmental response. In the wake of 9/11, federal officials downplayed and affirmatively misrepresented the danger of exposure to the WTC Ground Zero site.

I have previously gone into detail about just how reckless federal officials' conduct appears to have been. Others have also provided additional details. Congressmembers are urging criminal that charges be brought against Christine Todd Whitman, the Bush appointed former EPA chief who made the most forceful public misrepresentations that the site was safe. Indeed, A NY federal court recently found that her conduct "shocked the contemporary conscience" and waived the usually granted governmental immunity.

In short, it is clear that federal officials misrepresented the danger at ground zero, and I and others have argued that they did so, at least in large part, to save money.

So, after it is clear beyond a doubt that government officials are responsible for knowingly endangering the public health, this same federal government refuses to pay for the effects of its error.

Why?

How can you not pay to undue a wrong that you committed? Clearly, the EPA can't blame anybody else. Christine Todd Whitman said, and I quote:

"As we continue to monitor air and drinking water in and around New York City, and as EPA gets more comprehensive analysis of this monitoring data, I am relieved to be able to reassure New York and New Jersey residents that a host of potential contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency's concern levels….Results we have just received on drinking water quality show that not only is asbestos not detectable, but also we cannot detect any bacterial contamination, PCBs or pesticides." Christine Todd Whitman Sept. 21, 2001.

Even while her agency's own testing directly contradicted that statement.

In her more than 80 page decision, Federal Judge Deborah Batts denied Whitman immunity against the class action lawsuit and said:

"No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws....The allegations in this case of Whitman's reassuring and misleading statements of safety after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are without question conscience-shocking."

What about the usual conservative mantra of personal responsibility?

What about governmental responsibility?

No, it's too expensive.

As I have said before, this approach to governance follows the profits over safety business model currently being advanced by the tort "reform" movement. An alternative description of this model can be "the political economy of the tort 'reform' movement."

This model is described in detail here, but a summarized version is below.

In short, an entity which makes a decision on account of profits or savings which it knows will likely endanger human life.

However, when human health and well being is negatively affected as the entity knew was likely to occur, this entity cries foul and says that righting this wrong (even if a worthy cause) would be "too expensive."

In denying this 1.9 billion in federal funding for treatment of 9/11 responders, the Republican controlled Congress did exactly that.

I’m tired of hearing about personal responsibility.

Let’s talk about collective responsibility.

Let’s talk about a responsibility to some of our nation’s greatest heroes, as well as to all Americans who are put in harm’s way by the reckless choices of government officials.

Let’s talk about putting human safety….. over financial safety.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at cdugger@drummajorinstitute.org.


Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Cyrus Dugger: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 12:44 PM, Sep 15, 2006 in
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Comments

$2 Billion is a lot of money and we really don't know how bad the problem is at the point. I would prefer to see sick 9/11 responders made eligable for medical care through the VA administration.

The VA hospitals would in time develop a competency in the particular medical issues that 9/11 responders face and have built in cost controls and fraud prevention. Furthermore, 9/11 responders would be provided care no matter how serious the problem becomes.

After all, the 9/11 responders were front-line troops in the war on terror.

In 10 years I'd rather not hear about 9/11 responders not getting needed medical care because the @2 billion wasn't sufficient and the program was poorly run.

Posted by: Chuck Kring | September 15, 2006 4:10 PM

2 billion is a lot of money, but it’s needed to address a lot of suffering.


This money is necessary. Your objection that it is “too much” is exactly the point that is being made above. By your rationale the larger the number of people hurt, and the more costly their injuries, the less compelling their claim for assistance.


Instead, regardless of the size of the injury, once someone is responsible for a mistake, let alone a reckless mistake, they should pay without complaint.


At the same time, some have taken your approach. Congressman Jerry Nadler proposed a companion bill in Congress that would extend Medicare benefits to all affected persons (not just first responders and cleanup workers – but residents as well) to treat their WTC related illnesses


As to your too expensive objection, I’m not sure the ultimate costs of your idea or Nadler’s would be very different that 2 billion given that taxpayer dollars ultimately fund Medicare.


Description of Bill Below


The 9/11 Comprehensive Health Benefits Act would provide medical treatment and health care for those who need it and channel much needed federal resources and coordination to the institutions and programs that have been on the frontlines in this crisis. The bill has two major components:


It would extend Medicare benefits to individuals with adverse health or mental health conditions associated with exposure to the terrorist attacks – including first responders, rescue and recovery personnel, those accidentally caught in the cloud, as well as those who have resided, gone to school, or have been employed in a building that was exposed to hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants from the collapse of the World Trade Center – and cover their 9/11 health-related illnesses. All costs for such illnesses, including premiums, deductibles, and co-pays would be covered. For those with private insurance, Medicare would provide supplemental coverage for these 9/11-related conditions to ensure complete care.

2. It would establish a consortium of institutions, practitioners, and community-based organizations that would comprise the Federal government’s primary mechanism for screening, monitoring, testing and research for 9/11 health conditions. As part of establishing the consortium, the federal government would also be responsible for setting up a state-of-the-art clinical facility in Lower Manhattan focused on 9/11 health.

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny08_nadler/911CompHealthBeneAct090706.html

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | September 15, 2006 4:33 PM

To save himself from being outed as either a bungler or a modern-day Dr. Strangelove, Bush ignored his anti-personal injury recovery bias, and set up a fund to hand out money to victims of 9-11 who had no chance of ever winning similar verdicts in a jury trial

When the Bush Administration was afraid that litigation by victims of 9-11 might uncover its incompetence or worse, it bribed off potential plaintiffs with a huge fund; and people who most personal injury lawyers thought would have slim chances of recovering based on the crime exception in tort law, actually received mega-million dollar awards. Of course the trade off is that there were no interrogatories, depositions or document productions that would have represented the kind of intense investigation that the profit motive (i.e., contingent fees) generated in other cases (e.g., tobacco). Rather, Bush got to appoint a committee of politicians who ended up sugarcoating his dastardly failures.

Having been insulated by the 9-11 Commission and the passage of time, Bush and the Republican Mafia do not fear this lawsuit from the first responders/rescuers.

The issue in the case of the first responders/rescuers, by contrast, presents no threat. First the sugarcoated 9-11 Commission's report has now been accepted as the official, politically-balanced story of the event. Also, the public has already made up its mind, and there is no election Bush personally faces. More to the point, the issue in the first responders/rescuers case is not what acts or omissions of the Bush-Republican Mafia allowed (or caused) 9-11 but rather, was there a screw-up by the EPA (an agency the Republican Mafia hates anyway); or is there any immunity from suit.

First responders/rescuers are cheated just like the soldiers who have been wounded and killed.

So, like our brave soldiers who when killed or wounded are paid far less than the 9-11 victim's fund paid out, the Republican Mafia urges that the firemen and police officers assume the full financial burden of their illnesses.

Posted by: Vilan | September 15, 2006 5:10 PM

The Bush administration has been hacking away at the VA, as well as ignoring these first-responders. I sincerely doubt the VA has the resources to handle the addition of these people when our own vets are unable to get timely and effective healthcare. Add to that the continuing flow of wounded and maimed from Iraq and Afghanistan and we will just end up with no one receiving the care they need because the Bush admin doesn't want to pay for the consequences of the in/actions.

Posted by: Terry | September 15, 2006 5:31 PM

It never ceases to amaze me how dumb some 'folks' are.

2 Billion is chump change...bupkis...nada...

The DOD cannot account for over a Trillion dollars they spent in the 90s. They don't know what they spent it on and they don't know who they paid. Don't believe me? Google it.

Somebody remind me how much we are spending in EyeRack every month...

Oh...

Yeah...

8 Billion.

Please wake up and put your mind in gear before you insert your foot in your mouth.

Or do you just 'Hate America'.

This is just a pathetic comment.

Posted by: A.Citizen | September 15, 2006 8:36 PM

Wow, you people are naive. Do you really think this will cost just $2 billion? Fact is, most these health claims have nothing to do with 9/11 and the minute you open that can of worms, everyone is going to attribute every ailment to 9/11. This will end up being at least $200 billion in direct claims and billions more in frivilous lawsuits that stretch from here to eternity.

Posted by: Joe | September 18, 2006 2:17 AM

Joe,

Your objection, makes my point once again. What is the alternative? Let these people become disabled, because it is too expensive? If not out of patriotism, out of a moral and legal obligation these people need to be helped.

On a different post some objects to my characterization of the results of he Katrina insurance being unfair.

That is an argument I will have with them, but it is striking that here you cast the insurer as the victim.

If you feel that the holder of the policy didn't get "enough" insurance to cover floods and should accept the consequences of their decision, then you would have to agree that the insurance companies should quickly pay based on their decision to give insurance coverage.

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | September 20, 2006 2:23 AM