(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding an agreement on the 9/11 bill.
“I’m pleased the sponsors of this bill agreed to lower costs dramatically, offset the bill, sunset key provisions and take steps to prevent fraud. Every American recognizes the heroism of the 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one group while robbing future generations of opportunity. I’m pleased this agreement strikes a fair balance and improves the bill the majority attempted to rush through at the last minute,” Dr. Coburn said.
The agreement includes the following changes:
• Reduction in Costs. This agreement saves taxpayers $6.2 billion from the substitute amendment and $7.5 billion from the House-passed bill. In the deal, costs are reduced to $4.2 billion in the 10-year window and eliminated outside the 10-year window. Of that amount, $1.5 billion will go to health benefits, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation.
• Permanently Close the Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) after 5 years. The original bill kept the VCF open through 2031, making it extremely susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse and incurring significant long-term costs. The fund is now open only through 2016 and has language to expressly say that it is permanently closed at after 5 years.
• Limitations on Attorneys Fees. Places a hard cap for attorneys’ fees at 10 percent of the total award and allows the Special Master to reduce attorneys fees he believes are excessive
• Prevents Reinstatement of Civil Claims. Prevent claimants who are rejected from the VCF from then pursuing a civil lawsuit. This is consistent with the earlier VCF policy.
• Limitation on Infrastructure Costs. Explicitly excludes construction and capital projects from health care spending in the bill.
• Commitment to ensure eligible individuals cannot “double-dip” on benefits. The Senators all agreed to get in writing from the Special Master that he will include workers compensation benefits in collateral sources of benefits that he must offset from potential compensation awards.
• More Accountability. Require claims-level data reporting to provide accountability and opportunity for oversight, as well as GAO reports to determine less expensive mechanisms to provide nationwide care, pharmaceutical access, and health information technology promotion.