U.S. Senate passes 9/11 health bill

08:39, December 23, 2010      

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The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a healthcare package and economic aid for people who fell sick after inhaling toxic fume from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center.

The 4.2-billion-dollar package was passed with a voice vote. The package went through after Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed the package from 6.2 billion dollars down to 4.2 billion. New York Democrat Charles Schumer and Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn hammered out the deal, allowing the Congress to adjourn on Wednesday and head home before Christmas.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on it later in the day.

The bill provides free health care and compensation for lost wages and other economic losses to first-responders for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and survivors who fell ill after being exposed to toxins from the ground zero ruins.

The program covers firefighters, police officers and construction workers who rushed to the smoking wreckage of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and worked at the site in the following months.

Many of the first-responders and clean-up workers were exposed to toxic substances that erupted into the atmosphere when the towers collapsed. The health benefits program will also help residents in the immediate surrounding area who came down with illnesses after the attack.

The bipartisan agreement reduced the length of the authorization from eight years to five years, cutting its cost from 6.2 billion to 4.2 billion.

It authorizes a new health benefits program and extends the victims' compensation fund for five years, allowing affected workers and residents to file new claims.

The legislation is largely paid for by imposing a 2-percent fee on companies based in countries that have not signed a government procurement agreement with the United States.

Source: Xinhua

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