INTERVIEW: 9/11 Responder Urges Congress to Approve Bill to Cover Health Costs
Next year, tens of thousands of first responders with 9/11-related illnesses will face problems getting treatment unless Congress takes action.
Parts of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which covers health care costs for 72,000 first responders, have already expired, and the fund will run out of money by February 2016.
A measure to extend the $8-11 billion bill has been held up by House Committee Republicans who are against making the funding permanent.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he supports re-authorizing the program and that he has ordered the appropriate committees to work on resolving the issue before the end of the year.
But advocates like 9/11 first responder John Feal say the funding needs to be permanent because some illnesses won't show up until later.
"If anything, the bill is going to shrink and the program is going to shrink because more and more people, sadly, are going to die," Feal said.
More than 1,700 first responders have died since 9/11 due to cancer or other respiratory diseases because of the toxic ash and dust they inhaled at Ground Zero.
Feal said paying for first responder health care is "a national issue, not just a New York issue," because it affects responders from all but two congressional districts in the country.
He said the bill would be paid for by closing tax loopholes.
He's urging Americans to call their elected officials and urge them to pass the Zadroga Act in its full form "so these men and women can live the rest of their lives to the best of their ability.
"They're going to die. Our lives have been cut short."