Lawmakers Seek to Address WTC Health Program Funding Shortfalls

Lawmakers Seek to Address WTC Health Program Funding Shortfalls

By Troy Rosasco

Recently, it was announced that four lawmakers had introduced an act intended to address the funding shortfalls currently being experienced by the WTC Health Program. The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act was introduced to the House by Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, and Andrew Garbarino, as well as to the Senate by Senator Kristin Gillibrand.

All the lawmakers but Garbarino, who is a freshman, were original lead sponsors for the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010, which created the program.

The WTC Health Program currently provides medical monitoring and treatment for more than 100,000 responders and survivors from the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, in Lower Manhattan, New York City; at the Pentagon; and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The participants in the program reside in every state in the nation and there are survivors in nearly all the Congressional Districts in the U.S.

Why Is the New Act Necessary?

Although recent years have seen the federal 9/11 benefit programs, including the WTC Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), receive permanent authorization to continue assisting survivors and responders of the 9/11 terror attacks through 2090, the WTC Health Program is facing a predicted funding shortfall that could hamper the program’s ability to provide medical treatment and monitoring of 9/11-linked illnesses to all applicants.

What are the Proposed Provisions of the Act?

The provisions of the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act that are intended to assist in the funding shortfall of the program include addressing the following issues.

Expanding Who Can Certify Covered Conditions

Currently, the language of the law providing authorization for the federal 9/11 benefits programs requires participants in the WTC Health Program to obtain certification of covered 9/11-linked medical conditions from a physician. The act would change that requirement to allow participants to have their conditions certified by a licensed health care provider.

This will allow the program more flexibility in providing participants with the required certification. Remember, this certification is also the main eligibility factor for those seeking compensation through the VCF for wage loss, pain and suffering, or wrongful death resulting from the 9/11 terror attacks.

Expanding Criteria for Credentialing Networked Providers

There was an error in the original language of the law that created the program. As written, the Zadroga Act stated that data centers must credential themselves as networked providers. By correcting this language, the responsibility for credentialing networked providers is firmly in the control of the program’s administrator, as intended.

Clarifying Enrollment Numbers in the Program

The language of the Zadroga Act prevents the program’s administrator from removing the names of participants who have died from its membership roll, which not only makes it difficult to know exactly how many people are currently receiving treatment and services through the program, as well as to anticipate the amount of funding that will be needed in the future.

The Creation of a Funding Formula for the Program

The crux of the issue regarding the WTC Health Program is that the program has not obtained adequate funding to provide services for all current participants in addition to those who will apply for the program in the future as the latency periods of certain related illnesses expire and individuals become sick.

The proposed law would provide the funding necessary to keep the program intact for the next ten years. In the meantime, a separate funding formula would be created to ensure the program’s viability in decades to come.

Funding for the program would be increased for the next ten years, with additional funding allocated as follows:

  • Funding for research would be increased from $15 million a year to $20 million a year.
  • The funding for data center operations would also be increased from $15 million a year to $20 million. Since 2002, the World Trade Center Health Program has partnered with the five Clinical Centers of Excellence, These data centers include the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; New York University at Bellevue Hospital; Northwell Health; Rutgers University; and the State University of New York – Stony Brook and Downstate. The purpose of these centers is to establish medical protocols to monitor the health of World Trade Center workers and volunteers, as well as to organize their medical care. These centers share the data they collect with networked providers and during outreach and patient education efforts.
  • Funding for outreach activities would be increased from $750,000 to $2 million each year.

Creating Research on Emerging Health Impacts for Youth

An estimated 35,000 of the individuals who were exposed to the toxic 9/11 dust plume were children attending daycare centers, schools, or living in the area in the months that followed the attacks. In the 20 years since the attacks, these children have become adults.

Unfortunately, many of them have gone on to suffer health and psychological impacts related to the attacks. The new law would authorize funding to research the impacts that the exposure and the trauma have had on these young people through time.

Troy Rosasco
Attorney, Troy Rosasco
Posted under: 9/11 Victim Compensation, The Victims' Compensation Fund

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