GOP opposes 9/11 workers' health fund

GOP: U.S. can't afford to fund health 'entitlement program' for 9/11 rescue workers

By Michael Mcauliff

WASHINGTON - Republicans argued Tuesday that it would put the nation's finances at risk if Congress gave ailing Sept. 11 responders a permanent, guaranteed program to ensure they get health care.

Calling the Sept. 11 Health and Compensation Act a new "entitlement program" like Medicare, GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee argued the nation already has too much that it must pay for. They said  obligating the feds for lifetime care of tens of thousands of 9/11 responders was too much of a burden.

"By making this a new mandatory program, you jeopardize the financial health of the United States of America," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).
And they argued that the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, were already being cared for, noting the $150 million the Obama recently requested for this year.

Speaking to dozens of responders gathered in a Capitol Hill hearing chamber, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) argued that their demand for the federal government to help "would be just if we weren't spending money already."

"In fact, there's $131 million in the fund right now. The health care needs of first-time responders have been addressed," Shimkus declared, referring to contracts that are being spent now and were delayed by the federal government.

"There's $131 million there that's unspent," said Rogers. "The President said 150. Please don't make it a mandatory program. I agree with the President."

The bill aims to set up a permanent fund to care for ailing responders at a cost estimated around $11 billion over three decades.

Republicans want the responders to come back to Congress every year to make their case, which the legislators argued will help protect against fraud and waste.

"If this issue is so credible based on the results of Sept. 11, we shouldn't be afraid of going through the (budget) authorization process, and fight for the spending bill," said Shimkus.
Some also feared the measure might help people who are undeserving.

"Some of the conditions that are covered under this legislation seemed unusually broad to me because we're talking about asthma, sleep apnea, panic disorder, anxiety disorder, even substance abuse," said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield. "It's so broad that I think it's going to cover a lot of things that may not be directly related to this incident."
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) argued New York was trying to dump its responsibility for caring for victims of the terrorist attacks on the feds.
"Our support for them (responders) should not be a vehicle for cost-shifting," he said, pointing to the lengthy approval process of the workers' compensation system that generally helps people injured on the job.
"We may be encouraging waste, fraud and abuse - abuse such as New York City vigorously challenging more and more of these claims that our 9/11 heroes need, pushing more and more of them onto the World Trade Center health fund for relief," Gingrey argued.

The whole debate over whether the program should be mandatory or an annual discretionary program misses the point, said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn-Queens), saying it was Congress' obligation to help the people who answered the call almost nine years ago.

And, he noted, the health fund could not be an endless and growing entitlement like Medicare.

"There's a finite number of people," Weiner said. "That finite number of people is getting smaller and smaller every day because they're dying."
New Yorkers in the crowd were not impressed with the opposition.

"They always say the support us, but it's all about cost," said Jim Slevin, the vice presdent of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

And coming back year after year to make the argument punishes people who are sick from their heroic service, said William Romaka, the association's sergeant at arms. "Coming back and forth every year is not easy for people who are ill," Romaka said.

Republicans were expected offer several amendments to the bill Tuesday afternoon, including restrictions on covering abortion and illegal immigrants.



Another Sad Testament...

of where America has come under the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties and the unbridled greed and corruption it has fostered. We need a leadership party, that will hold truths self evident.

Excuse ME

Wait a minute didn't the nation just pass "Healthcare?" If its not to expensive to fund the entire nations healthcare how is it going to be too much for these few brave hero's who continue to truly suffer.

"By making this a new mandatory program, you jeopardize the financial health of the United States of America," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). Someone needs to check on this ones vote for the Healthcare bill. This guy just turns logic on its head whenever it suits his lobbying constituents.

Their sacrifice for their country was without question when needed and our "elected" officials just turn their collective backs on them - WHAT a DISGRACE

It is disgraceful

To say you can't "afford" it is crazy. In a society where money is printed out of thin air, the term "can't afford it" becomes irrelevant. The only thing that give the money any value is the use you put it to. It becomes painfully obvious of the value placed on our true heroes who put their lives on the line everyday to save lives and property. Its becoming shameful.



How truely disgusting

I would like to say I'm surprised, but these are right-wing nutters were talking about.

"By making this a new mandatory program, you jeopardize the financial health of the United States of America," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)

Hang about, by admitting the health problems of the first responders would be a serious financial burden to a NATION STATE, did he just admit their health problems from 9/11 are real? And a financial burden of the size he's implying would certainly be beyond the means of any individual or family. So what's his plan--"let them die so we can forget about it"?

Speaking about financial burdens--there's this war creating new "jeapardies to financial health" vis PTSD--they might want to stop it. Ounce of prevention and all that...

This says it all, regarding

This says it all, regarding the inverted ethics of (some of) the powers-that-be. They are only too willing and eager to spend > $$One Trillion on their (pre-planned) wars, sold to the public on the back of the 9/11 attacks, even deliberately bombing Iraq's civilian infrastructure in order to award $multi-billion reconstruction contracts to their corporate cronies.

In their eyes, funding the killing of >1.2 million innocent people abroad is a necessity, but taking taking care of our own heroes is a luxury. There is a word to describe these characters: "Psychopaths"..

I Guess That's What You Call ...

Burying the Evidence .... literally.