Politics NewYork-Presbyterian finally agrees to accept World Trade Center Health...

NewYork-Presbyterian finally agrees to accept World Trade Center Health Plan for 9/11 survivors

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NewYork-Presbyterian, the top hospital in New York that had refused to accept payments from a federally funded program that aids sick 9/11 survivors, finally relented after the Daily News reported the ongoing bureaucratic challenges for Ground Zero patients seeking treatment.

First established in 2010, the World Trade Center Health Program provides screenings and treatment for more than 100,000 responders and workers suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. Covered conditions range from respiratory diseases, digestive disorders, cancers, and other ailments caused by exposure to toxins that drifted over lower Manhattan for months after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

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The idea behind the program is to relieve them from the financial and time-wasting stress of navigating the notoriously difficult rules of insurance providers.

The NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center on E. 68th Street in Manhattan, New York. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

Last week, the News spoke with two former patients confronted with confusing paperwork and unwarranted bills from NewYork-Presbyterian for their 9/11-related cancer and lung transplants.

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The problem stemmed from the fact that NYP, unlike all of New York’s other hospital chains, refused to sign what’s known as a master agreement with the World Trade Center Health Program, which covers all medical costs for patients in the program.

In an email to the News, a spokesman for the hospital acknowledged that they are reaching out to the sick responders — including former high-voltage lineman Charlie Buttacavoli and ex-NYPD traffic supervisor Walter Clark — and will ensure they are repaid for any improper charges .

“A very limited number of patients received bills in error,” said spokesman Tony Chau. “We will reimburse them for these bills. These responders and survivors have our full apology, and we will be reaching out to them immediately.”

Workers at Ground Zero after the Sept.11 attacks in lower Manhattan, New York on Sept.  12, 2001.
Workers at Ground Zero after the Sept.11 attacks in lower Manhattan, New York on Sept. 12, 2001. (Suzanne Plunkett/AP)

Charlie Buttacavoli’s wife, Pat, told the News that her husband had already been contacted by a hospital vice president, who apologized and promised to make things right.

“He’s going to refund us hopefully… THANK YOU!!” she texted.

Chau also said that the hospital would finally accept the WTC health plan with the hopes of being known as a “Clinical Center for Excellence” within the program.

“NewYork-Presbyterian will reach out this week to enter into a master agreement with the [9/11 Health] Fund,” Chau said.

A person crosses a footbridge at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan New York on Wednesday, Nov.  17, 2021.
A person crosses a footbridge at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan New York on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (Richard Drew/AP)

The hospital pressed that NYP has a long history of treating 9/11 responders effectively, but the quality of care was never an issue for the patients or advocates who spoke to the News. In fact, Clark credited the hospital for saving his life – twice.

It was the bureaucracy and frustration that proved to be a nightmare.

“I am glad that NewYork-Presbyterian, after years of stonewalling, is finally doing the right thing and agreeing to a Master Agreement with the WTC Health Program so that 9/11 responders and survivors, many of whom have the most severe conditions, can have the same access to NYP’s facilities as they do to every other New York-area hospital,” said Benjamin Chevat, who runs the 9/11 Health Watch advocacy group.

Chau also said the hospital had designated a special ombudsman who can be reached at 866-833-6437 to work directly with all 9/11 first responders and survivors to ensure any issues are straightened out.

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“Our commitment to caring for every first responder and survivor who comes to us is unwavering,” Chau said.

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