Tuesday, January 22, 2008

9-11 rescue workers abandoned by White house

Bush Administration avoiding hearing on aid for out-of-state 9/11 responders

The White House is ducking Tuesday's hearing on why it scrapped a plan to help ailing 9/11 responders who live outside New York.

The decision to skip the hearing is angering critics who say the Bush administration has all but abandoned the generous souls who raced to New York after 9/11.

"Responders rushed from all over the country to help New York on 9/11. But [the U.S. Health and Human Services Department] couldn't find one person in the building to come to New York?" said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens).

"They don't fight for 9/11 health programs. Instead, they fight to stop them."

A spokeswoman who returned a call to the Health and Human Services Department said officials would answer questions at another time.

That's not good enough for Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn), who leads the House oversight subcommittee on government management, organization and procurement.

"If I must issue subpoenas, that is what I will do," Towns vowed. "The administration's handling of 9/11 health care is one of the worst-managed programs I have ever seen."

The nationwide 9/11 health program would have offered pharmacy benefits to sick responders and processed medical reimbursements, a key step in setting up regional clinics.

Many ailing responders are still forced to travel to New York for care. Federal officials have said the program was canceled because bidders were confused and cost estimates had ballooned.

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