The fund set up to cater for 9/11 survivors and their litany of medical bills is running out and authorities believe it will be long over by next year. The fund covered medical bills of the survivors of 9/11 including firefighters and paramedics who contracted illnesses years after the terrorist attack. As the number of claimants increases and their illnesses worsen, authorities are concerned a majority of them now may not be able to get health care.
The World Trade Center Health Fund was established in 2010 after long years of battling between the government and the victims/survivors. Congress had set up the fund with $4.2 billion to cover health conditions that were shown to be tied to the patient’s presence at Ground Zero.
The fund was instrumental in according specialized treatment to the survivors of 9/11, many of whom contracted illnesses much later on. One such example was Marcy Borders, famously known as “dust lady.” Her name came about after she was photographed next to the debris of the World Trade Center while covered in dust.
Borders contracted stomach cancer some time afterwards. Her illness was attributed to the toxic substances that were in the dust that covered her. These included ground glass, asbestos, gypsum, lead and calcite.
Borders was fortunate to receive medical care from the fund until her untimely passing on Wednesday at age 42. However, if the fund runs out, other survivors may not be so lucky.
Dr David Prezant who helps head the fund said, “At that time, which is one year from now, there will be approximately 70,000 enrolled patients or persons or members … who are in that program who have had documented exposures that were certified by the federal government who will no longer have coverage under that program unless it is re-certified.”
Prezant says of the 16,000 currently covered a majority are emergency medical office personnel and firefighters.
Concern for those affected has led New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to sponsor a bill geared toward renewing the fund. On her website, the New York Democrat said, “More than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath, and over two-thirds of those have more than one illness.”
She goes on to say, “Many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer and many more, caused by exposure to toxins and carcinogens at Ground Zero.”
The fund covers over 50 different diseases including lung disease, stomach cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many of the survivors of the 9/11 attack are either permanently disabled or retired as a result of illnesses attributed to exposure to harmful substances. For many, the fund was their sole source of support from the effects that followed. Many Americans are strongly in favor of renewing the fund lest more of our nation’s heroes die from lack of medical aid.