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Thursday
Aug112011

Zadroga Bill's Federal Dollars Trump Science for NY Politicians

President Obama signs the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act while on vacation in Hawaii. Image source: wh.govFor once, the feds have made a policy decision based on sound science … and, of course, Congress is standing in their way.

My new piece over at Reason.com examines why three New York politicians, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D), Jerrod Nadler (D), and Peter King (R), are protesting the ruling of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on the eligibility of cancer patients looking to have their treatments covered by the government.

In the piece, I explain the intricacies of the Zadroga bill and why we’re having this debate today:

At stake are billions of dollars from the controversial James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which set aside money for 9/11 rescue workers and survivors with health claims. The Zadroga Act allows people who worked, lived, or attended school near Ground Zero to claim compensation for a broad range of diseases, from asthma to depression, without a requirement to demonstrate that the diseases were caused by dust from the terror site. But the bill, which came with a hefty $4.3 billion price tag, passed only after proponents agreed to the utterly reasonable requirement that compensation for cancer be justified by a causal link.

Earlier this summer, the scientists Congress appointed to investigate the matter determined that such a causal link does not exist, at least not according the current evidence. In fact, if claimants could prove a causal link at some point in the future, their treatment would be covered.

The protests of the New York members of Congress over the NIOSH ruling is curious because the Zadroga bill offers only a finite amount of money to provide treatment for all of the victims of 9/11, money that should be going to people who actually got sick because of 9/11. I suspect the backlash is, at least in part, a result of the never ending desire of members of Congress to bring even more money back to their district. Perhaps they think that they could get additional money specifically for cancer on top of the $4.3 billion in the Zadrgoa bill if they raise a big enough fuss.

In addition to the cynical motives of elected officials, the emotional appeal of taking care of those who lived through the horrors of the September 11th attacks is also at work, something I addressed in the piece:

Any sick or dying patient appeals to our most human sympathies and 9/11 first-responders are heroes in the grandest sense of the word. These men and women risked their lives to save others on the day our country was attacked and they deserve the highest honors. But that doesn’t mean that every one of them who got cancer in the last decade was a victim of 9/11 dust.

Politicians should get out of the way and allow the science to prevail, no matter how at odds it is with their political agenda. Pressuring scientists for different results stinks of exploitation of the country’s appropriate goodwill towards New York after 9/11.

You can check out the whole piece at Reason.com.

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