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Deep in health bill, very specific beneficiaries

New York Times, December 21, 2009

Buried in the deal-clinching healthcare package that Senate Democrats unveiled over the weekend is an inconspicuous proposal expanding Medicare to cover certain victims of "environmental health hazards." The intended beneficiaries are identified in a cryptic, mysterious way: individuals exposed to environmental health hazards recognized as a public health emergency in a declaration issued by the federal government on June 17. And who might those individuals be? It turns out they are people exposed to asbestos from a vermiculite mine in Libby, MT. For a decade, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, has been trying to get the government to help them. He is in a position to deliver now because he is chairman of the Finance Committee and a principal author of the healthcare bill.