Baucus inserts coverage in health care bill for those affected by Libby asbestos

A December report by the New York Times revealed that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) has inserted language into the government’s proposed health care legislation that would provide coverage specifically for people exposed to asbestos in Libby, Montana. According to the report, language in the bill would expand Medicare coverage to vicitims of “environmental health hazards.”

According to the Times, the language is even more precise, calling for coverage for “individuals exposed to environmental health hazards recognized as a public health emergency in a declaration issued by the fedearl government on June 17.” This declaration and date, of course, coincides with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of Libby as a Public Health Emergency area.

The Times quotes Baucus as saying the language is not only intended for the people of Libby, but for anyone in the future whose town is affected by a similar tragedy that affects the health and well-being of its people. He said the legislation would provide a safety net to “help people when they need it most.”

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed their versions of the health care reform bill last year. It is now up to the 111th Congress as a whole to reconcile the two bills so that they may be presented to President Obama for his signature.

Congressional leaders say they hope to accomplish this by the end of January.

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