The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) has been under fire recently following revelations identified in an NBC news story released on September 9, 2021. According to NBC, many 9/11 survivors and first responders who live outside of the New York City metropolitan area have been neglected as they seek treatment for cancer and other serious physical and mental conditions, sparking immediate action from certain lawmakers.
Only four days after the release of the NBC news story, on September 13, 2021, a bipartisan group of New York House members “summoned” the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Wisconsin-based Logistics Health, Inc. (LHI) to appear before the House Oversight and Reform and House Judiciary committees to field questions from concerned House members.
LHI is tasked with ensuring 9/11 survivors and first responders receive the medical treatment they need under the WTCHP. In the past few years, LHI has quickly deteriorated, leaving survivors and first responders fending for themselves. LHI has failed to authorize prescription drugs, has failed to pay medical bills, and has eliminated the case manager system that allowed claimants to work one-on-one with a case manager.
Our firm is well aware of these failures and more. In many cases, our clients had to deal with unnecessary delays and hardship in obtaining access to care, treatment, and certification of their 9/11 conditions. Because of LHI’s multiple failures, another contractor will be taking over in mid-2022. We are hoping that this new contractor will provide superior service but we stand ready to intervene on behalf of our clients whenever necessary as we have done through the years with LHI.
Pitta & Baione LLP – 9/11 Attorneys Serving Survivors and First Responders
At Pitta & Baione LLP, we have been representing injured and ill victims of the 9/11 attacks, including survivors and first responders, for more than a decade. We have continuously fought for our clients’ rights to obtain 9/11 benefits under the WTCHP and compensation under the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) for qualifying claimants. To find out if you are eligible to file a 9/11 claim, contact the 9/11 lawyers of Pitta & Baione LLP, to receive your free case evaluation.
Who is Logistics Health, Inc. (LHI)?
Approximately 24,000 9/11 survivors and first responders living outside of metropolitan New York City have sought benefits through the WTCHP. For claimants who live within the metropolitan area, they can go to qualifying hospitals and healthcare providers within the city.
To ensure all 9/11 survivors and first responders benefit from the WTCHP – regardless of where they live – the NIOSH enlisted the help of LHI, a third-party intermediary/middleman, to process claims for individuals living outside of New York City. LHI is not an insurance company. Rather, LHI (whose parent company is OptumServe) processes claims for the WTCHP, utilizing contracted providers from throughout the country.
LHI has been around since 1999 and was previously awarded government contracts to assist in the administration of healthcare for service members and veterans. Since 2008, LHI has been administering WTCHP claims for individuals outside of metropolitan New York City.
While LHI may have performed adequately in the beginning, the last few years have demonstrated a sharp decline in LHI’s commitment to helping 9/11 survivors and first responders. Although the NBC news story about LHI’s failures was released in September, the government had already begun soliciting new bids for a company to replace LHI in August of this year.
LHI Employees and 9/11 Claimants Revelations Spark Concern and Outrage
The NBC News investigation into LHI documents horrific details that have caused unnecessary stress and harm to many 9/11 first responders and survivors, many of whom suffer from anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions. Examples of LHI’s failures documented in NBC’s story include the following:
- Failing to pay medical bills, resulting in many 9/11 claimants receiving calls and letters from collection agencies;
- Failing to timely authorize a pharmacy to dispense pain medication to a patient who underwent prostate removal as part of cancer treatment, leaving him without pain medication for 48 grueling hours;
- Eliminating the one-on-one case manager system that allowed claimants/members to speak with ONE person (the new system consists of a call center with long delays);
- Requiring “pre-authorization” for medications that have already been covered for years;
- Requiring that one 9/11 first responder with PTSD be placed on a “behavioral contract,” stating that he would be refused care if he continued to exhibit “disruptive and abusive behavior.”
- Failing to train all LHI employees on how to address patients with mental health conditions, such as PTSD and anxiety.
- Current and former LHI employees confirm that LHI is not equipped to handle the needs of 9/11 claimants with mental health conditions. Without an understanding of how mental health conditions affect patients, LHI employees have been wrongfully dismissing the concerns of patients and treating them as if the care they must receive is meaningless. With regard to the first responder whose benefits were threatened if he exhibited “disruptive and abusive behavior,” LHI does not have the power to deny benefits, which have already been authorized. All LHI is supposed to do is administer access to health care for 9/11 survivors and first responders who have been suffering for two decades.
The Consequences of LHI’s Failures
Survivors and first responders who were exposed to significant levels of toxins following the 9/11 terrorist attacks are not asking for handouts. They are not asking for money. All they want is the medical care they have already qualified for under the WTCHP. Because LHI has deteriorated over the past decade, 9/11 victims have to look elsewhere for treatment.
Many 9/11 claimants have resorted to using private health insurance (if they have it) or using their own money to pay for the expensive treatment associated with cancer and other debilitating (and life-threatening) conditions. Additionally, because a large population of 9/11 survivors and first responders suffer from PTSD and anxiety, they have trouble coping – through no fault of their own – with the fact that LHI has made little to no effort to ensure these 9/11 claimants are treated respectfully and receive the care they need and deserve.
A large number of 9/11 survivors and first responders have experienced a worsening of their mental health conditions. Grappling with long customer service wait times (rather than the old method of speaking with one case manager) is too much for many of these brave souls to handle. Perhaps the decision to eliminate the case manager system was the beginning of the end for LHI. What 9/11 survivors and first responders need the most aside from medically necessary care is compassion and respect for what they have gone through.
Contact the 9/11 Lawyers of Pitta & Baione LLP Today
If you are a 9/11 survivor or first responder wishing to file a claim with the WTCHP for treatment of a physical or mental health condition related to the 9/11 attacks, consider reaching out to a New York 9/11 lawyer who can guide you through the process. At Pitta & Baione LLP, we have extensive experience representing 9/11 victims like you and have helped victims file claims for WTCHP benefits and compensation through the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). To find out whether you qualify, contact us today by calling (844) 901-1237 for a free consultation.