The House Fails To Pass Aid Measure For Sick 9/11 Responders
The Associated Press: "A bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center dust fell short in the House on Thursday, raising the possibility that the bulk of compensation for the ill will come from a legal settlement hammered out in the federal courts." The measure failed to draw the necessary two-thirds majority. Democrats had opted for this procedural route rather than a simple majority because it blocked potential GOP amendments. Ultimately, 12 Republicans crossed party lines to vote with Democrats for passage. "For weeks, a judge and teams of lawyers have been urging 10,000 former ground zero workers to sign on to a court-supervised settlement that would split $713 million among people who developed respiratory problems and other illnesses after inhaling trade center ash." Republicans opposing the bill branded it as "another big-government 'massive new entitlement program' that would have increased taxes and possibly kill jobs" (Miga and Caruso, 7/29).
The New York Times: The bill would have provided "billions of dollars for medical treatment to rescue workers and residents of New York City who suffered illnesses from the toxic dust and debris at ground zero." Its GOP opponents were concerned about the program's price tag -- $7.4 billion. "But Democrats accused Republicans of being callous and vowed to bring the bill back for another vote in the fall." So far, the federal government has provided funds on an annual basis "to monitor the health of people injured at ground zero and to provide them with medical treatment" but the measure's supporters wanted to remove the assistance from the problems that accompany year-to-year appropriations (Hernandez, 7/29).
The Hill: Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is setting up a show-down vote next week "on a $26.1 billion package of education funding and Medicaid assistance to states." The measure's entire cost is paid for with offsets, "such as a provision to end tax credits on corporate foreign-earned income," as well as other rescissions and program cuts. It is viewed as a difficult choice for centrist Republican members because the proposals are popular with many GOP governors. Dems tried to attach the state Medicaid assistance to the small business legislation currently pending on the Senate floor, but Republicans "balked at the linkage" (Bolton, 7/29).
The Hill's Healthwatch Blog: On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators announced legislation "designed to cut healthcare costs by offering legal services to patients in public health settings." The measure is sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Kit Bond, R-Mo. The bill, with a $10 million price tag, "would create a federal demonstration project to test the cost effectiveness of medical-legal partnerships (MLPs), which encourage preventive care by bringing attorneys into hospitals and other public health centers." Examples that supporters cite include a disabled patient who needs a lawyer's help to access Medicaid benefits or a patient with chronic conditions who needs legal assistance to address his or her housing issues. A similar pilot program in Boston has "reduced expensive emergency room visits by 50 percent" (Lillis, 7/29).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.