Editorial: Helping survivors survive: Congress owes more to those stricken by 9/11-related health problems

Aug 8, 2021
In The News

The CDC’s World Trade Center Health Program covers any person below Houston St. who was injured or sickened by 9/11 or the aftereffects of the toxic plume that blanketed downtown. After a great deal of struggle over years and a drumbeat from these quarters, Congress in fits and starts accepted its responsibility and provided health care and a victim compensation fund for these heroes and victims.

In 2015, the WTC Health Program was made permanent, but Washington cheapskates only allowed for minor increases in the funding, even though the number of people needing services would grow (from 75,000 to 110,000), their ailments would get worse and galloping health care costs would be galloping health care costs, rising much faster than inflation. Sure enough, Dr. John Howard, who runs the program, now projects shortfalls will begin in three years and grow and grow.

Fixing it will need $2.8 billion for five years once shortfalls begin, as well as changing the formula to avoid future deficits. Ideally, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will put it in the Senate’s reconciliation bill.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler are leading the charge once more, joined by Long Island GOP freshman Andrew Garbarino, who picked up from the retired Pete King. It was always bipartisan and so it remains, with every single New York member of Congress signing on as original co-sponsors. That’s 19 Democrats and eight Republicans, including Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House.

We’ve had our differences with Stefanik, but here she is absolutely right. The same goes for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other end of the spectrum. The people who rushed to help downtown on that terrible September Tuesday and in the days, weeks and months to follow didn’t do so as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.

They sacrificed their health, being stricken by cancers and respiratory diseases and a host of other maladies, many of which will be fatal. It’s up to Congress to provide them with the best medical care available.