The impending shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program...

The impending shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program is due to a "precipitous rise in medical costs and cancer rates," the letter said. Credit: Newsday / Robert Mecea

The World Trade Center Health Program requires a massive infusion of cash due to a long-term funding shortfall that could lead to service cuts and bar enrollees with newly diagnosed illnesses, according to a bipartisan contingent of House and Senate lawmakers, including two Long Island Republicans.

In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees, the elected officials paint a bleak picture for the program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring for 124,000 Americans still suffering from the health effects of the nation's worst terror attack.

Without action from Congress, the program will not have enough money to accept new enrollees by 2027, while other cuts in service could be needed the following year, wrote the lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) and Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park). 

"While Congress extended the program to 2090, the precipitous rise in medical costs and cancer rates in survivors and first responders since then has led to an impending funding shortfall that must be addressed," they wrote in the Sept. 8 letter, which was shared with Newsday shortly after the 22nd anniversary of the attacks.

Garbarino said the funding is still well short of the roughly $2 billion needed to fully fund the Health program.

An amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which previously cleared the Senate, would provide $444 million to partially address the funding shortfall.

Another $232 million would expand program eligibility to all 9/11 responders at the Pentagon or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — where United Flight 93 crashed — who were active-duty military or civilians at the time of the attack, along with certain federal employees currently excluded from the program.

A similar measure has not passed the House.

The Department of Health and Human Services has not been enrolling some Pentagon and Shanksville responders who were federal employees because of an interpretation of language in the original 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, even though it's intended to cover the life span of all individuals exposed to toxic dust from the 9/11 attacks.. The program was reauthorized in 2015 and extended through 2090.

"We are united in our promise to never forget our heroes, but we will fall short until the World Trade Center Health Program is fully funded," Gillibrand said. "The Senate has spoken, and I’m urging congressional leadership to include our Senate-passed amendment in the final NDAA conference report."

A Health Program official did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2022, lawmakers allocated $1 billion for the program in the end-of-year spending bill. But that money is still not enough, lawmakers said, to keep pace with anticipated program costs.

Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said the majority leader "strongly supports the push" and is working with House members to get the funds inserted into the final Defense Authorization bill, which needs to be approved before the year's end.

The cost of the $676 million amendment, officials said, would be offset by changes to a Food and Drug Administration process that allows citizens to express concerns about pending drug applications, but which has been used by companies to prevent generic drugs from entering the market. The reforms would lead to earlier access to generic drugs and reduced FDA administrative costs, officials said.

Garbarino said that money will make a dent in the shortfall.

"As long as we're chipping away at it," Garbarino said. "And if it takes me a couple more years to get the rest of it, that's fine. I just don't want anybody on the World Trade Center Health plan to get a letter saying that they're not able to get the care that they need."

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