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National 9/11 Health Program Stopped in Its Tracks,

 
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DMCKEON
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 8:33 pm    Post subject: National 9/11 Health Program Stopped in Its Tracks,
From Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:00 am to Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:59 am (included)
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Meghan OShaughnessy (Maloney)

December 14, 2007 (202) 225-7944

Joshua Vlasto (Schumer)

(212) 486-4430

Clinton Press Office

(202) 224-2243

Shin Inouye (Nadler)

(202) 225-5635

Jon Taets (Fossella)

(202) 225-1467



National 9/11 Health Program Stopped in Its Tracks,

NY Delegation Demands Immediate Answers



NEW YORK, NY Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Vito Fossella (R-NY) today demanded answers from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt on why his agency suddenly terminated its Request for Contracts to start a World Trade Center Business Process Center (full text of delegation letter to Leavitt below). The Business Process Center would have created the first federally funded national program to provide treatment for sick 9/11 responders who reside outside the New York metropolitan area. Currently, no such national treatment program exists, and if private funding runs out sick responders from around the country would be forced to travel to the New York City area to seek diagnosis and treatment.



Its appalling the Administration would choose the weeks before Christmas to slap thousands of sick 9/11 responders with this shocking news, said Maloney. Brave responders from around our country have been counting on this program to finally get the health care they need and deserve.



For far too long, the Administration has played games with the health needs of the brave men and women who toiled at Ground Zero. To pull the rug out from workers, whether they are from New York or otherwise, is simply unjustified and unfair, said Schumer.



Following the devastation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of responders came from all over the country to help New York in its time of need. Many of them are now suffering from illnesses as a direct result and it is our turn to make sure they receive the care they need. Withdrawing the request for proposals prior to the deadline effectively halts our planning to provide coordinated, comprehensive, federally funded treatment for responders outside of the New York City area, said Clinton. For those suffering from illnesses related to the aftermath of the attacks, time is of the essence and we simply cannot afford any additional delays in establishing a national federally funded treatment program. I strongly urge HHS to take all necessary steps to ensure that the people who selflessly responded in wake of the 9/11 tragedies have access to critically needed care.



People came from every state in the nation to aide in the massive rescue and recovery effort at Ground Zero, and put their health at risk in doing so, said Nadler. The World Trade Center Business Process Center is a crucial piece in providing health care to the thousands of people across the country whose health was affected by 9/11. We have a moral obligation to the living victims of 9/11, and I urge the Administration to honor its commitment and move forward with this program.



The news that HHS has pulled the plug on the World Trade Center National Business Center marks a sad chapter in our efforts to secure a full federal commitment to those people who are sick as a result f their work on 9/11. These questions now need to be answered: what will the alternative be? And what will the federal commitment be to these workers and volunteers? I cannot understand why when it is known that more centralized data on sick 9/11 workers nationwide is needed that they would pull the plug on the center that would have provided that. My colleagues and I will continue to fight for those who have become sick as a direct result of working at ground zero, regardless of where they live, said Fossella.



Background:



A July report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that many World Trade Center first responders dont have access to the thorough, uninterrupted health screening and monitoring services they need, and efforts to provide health screening and monitoring services to World Trade Center responders living outside of the New York City area are incomplete and intermittent. The GAO recommended that the Secretary of HHS expeditiously ensure that screening and monitoring services are available for responders residing outside the NYC area. [Click here for a summary and link to the full GAO report, September 11: HHS Needs to Ensure Availability of Health Screening and Monitoring for all Responders.]

Federally-funded treatment and monitoring programs are currently in operation through a variety of care providers in New York and New Jersey, including Mt. Sinai Hospital, Bellevue Hospital and the FDNY. The Request for Proposal would have allowed NIOSH to begin to establish a program to provide uniform, high-quality medical care to first responders nationwide.

Additional Background:

7/18/07: Reps. Maloney and Fossella on Bush Admin.s Draft 9/11 Health Care Plan

6/13/07: Bill Moving Through Congress Would Demand Federal 9/11 Health Plan

5/25/07: Senators and Representatives Welcome Approval of $50 Million for 9/11 Health Funding

4/27/07: NY Area Senators, Reps Demand 9/11 Health Plan Answers from Bush Administration

2/07/07: Congressional Resolution Would Urge Administration to Develop Federal 9/11 Health Plan

7/13/06: Maloney, Fossella Ask Health Czar for Progress Report on Response to 9/11 Health Crisis

4/12/06: Reps. Maloney, Fossella and Shays Demand 9/11 Responder Health Treatment Plan NOW



In September, Maloney, Nadler, and Fossella introduced H.R. 3543, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to ensure that everyone exposed to the Ground Zero toxins has a right to be medically monitored and all who are sick as a result have a right to treatment. In the Senate, Senator Clinton is working with her colleagues on the HELP Committee to develop a bipartisan, long-term solution addressing 9/11 health care needs.



Text of Letter:



December 14, 2007



The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt

Secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201



Dear Secretary Leavitt:



We are very concerned that the Department of Health and Human Services has terminated the Request for Contracts to start a World Trade Center (WTC) Business Processing Center which would, among other tasks, administer the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program for responders who live outside the New York metropolitan area.



Over six years after the attacks of 9/11, the health needs of all those who were exposed to the toxins of Ground Zero are still not being met. A series of grants set up the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment program to provide care for WTC rescue, recovery and cleanup workers in the New York metropolitan area. However, there is still no comprehensive federal program to care for the thousands of people currently living outside the metropolitan region who were exposed to the toxins of Ground Zero. These are people who came from every state in the nation and nearly every Congressional District in our country to help with the recovery efforts. In addition, a national program would serve those responders who were residents of the New York metropolitan area on 9/11, but have since moved or retired to other areas.



The purpose of putting forth the Request for Contracts for the Business Process Center was to establish a coordinated, systematic mechanism for the treatment of these responders before existing funding streams for national treatment ends, which is expected to happen at some point next year. Without this Request, the process of establishing federally funded treatment opportunities for responders outside of the New York metropolitan area has been halted, and the process of transitioning from existing treatment to a coordinated program has ended. Canceling the request for contracts essentially puts an end to the hope that they can access the care they need on a long-term basis in their area, without having to travel to New York.



We have all been strong advocates for the treatment and monitoring programs that help those that responded to 9/11 get the essential care and treatment for the lingering health impacts resulting from the exposures they faced in their work. But we also strongly believe that access to this care should not be based upon where you live. Responders and rescue workers came from all over the nation to address the crisis faced in New York, and we should in turn make sure that treatment services are available in locations across the nation. As a result, we are surprised and disheartened that HHS summarily stopped the contracting process for a WTC Business Processing Center, particularly because of the effort that had been carried out on this issue by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.



In addition to establishing a mechanism for treatment, it is important to note that the Business Processing Center would allow data on injuries and costs to be compiled in a timelier manner. Such center would also help to coordinate data collection among entities receiving federal funding for 9/11 monitoring and treatment.



With this in mind, we respectfully request to know:



1) Why did HHS cancel the Request for Contracts for the WTC Business Processing Center?

2) Who made the decision and who is ultimately responsible for the decision?

3) When will a new request be issued?

4) If you do not plan to issue a new request, why not?

5) What alternatives do you plan in order to deliver the services these responders need across the country?

6) Generally, what are the changes you are contemplating for the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment program for WTC responders?

7) Specifically, how do you intend to collect and improve the data that lawmakers need in order to move forward with caring for WTC Responders, both in New York and around the country?



Because of the urgency of this matter, we would like a response before Friday, December 21 at 5:00pm.



Sincerely,



CHARLES E. SCHUMER, United States Senator

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, United States Senator

CAROLYN B. MALONEY, Member of Congress

JERROLD NADLER, Member of Congress

VITO FOSSELLA, Member of Congress
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