KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

U.S. Judge Approves $712.5 Million Settlement For 9/11 Responders’ Health Problems

USA Today: "Thousands of first responders, firefighters and construction workers sickened by toxic rubble at Ground Zero could share in a settlement of up to $712.5 million announced Thursday, three months after a federal judge said a previous deal did not pay victims enough. U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein gave preliminary approval to the settlement of a 7-year-old lawsuit against the city by nearly 10,000 people who suffered illnesses from exposure to dust and debris at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks." Judge Hellerstein rejected an earlier settlement that would have paid $575 million to $657 million to victims. The new agreement's added funds "will mostly go to the sickest people." In order for the settlement to take effect, 95 percent of the plaintiffs must agree to it by Sept. 30 (Moore, 6/10).

The New York Times: "The payments would range from $3,250 for plaintiffs who have no qualifying injury but fear they may become sick to as much as $2 million for survivors who can demonstrate a link between a worker's death and their presence at ground zero. The agreement calls for a medical panel to advise on the validity of the claims and a claims administrator to decide the settlement amounts. Most of the money would go to the minority of people with debilitating or terminal ailments - including asthma and respiratory illnesses - that have a provable connection to the dust and fumes of 9/11." In addition to the financial settlement, lawyers for the workers will reduced their fees from one-third of the settlement to one-quarter (Sulzberger and Navarro, 6/10).

The Associated Press: "Thousands of 9/11 rescue and recovery workers suing New York City over their exposure to clouds of pulverized glass and cement at the World Trade Center site may have a tough choice between two deals in the weeks ahead. Do they take a share of a new settlement worth up to $713 million, or hold out for a second, potentially more lucrative option - a federal bill that could pay billions to people who die or become disabled because of illnesses caused by trade center ash? ... The two efforts to compensate sick ground zero workers are on a collision course because of a rule intended to prevent double dipping - getting paid twice by the government for the same injury. Congress is poised to consider legislation this summer that would reopen the 9/11 victim compensation fund and pay up to $8.2 billion to people whose health has been ruined by environmental damage caused by the attacks" (Caruso, 6/11).

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