BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — A change in the company managing treatment for the World Trade Center Health Program has so far not improved access to care, according to patients with ailments caused by the 9/11 attacks.
Managed Care Advisors (MCA) took over the job last year, but even government officials acknowledge the program is still plagued by issues.
Retired New York City firefighter Garrett Lindgren, now a Bradenton resident, said it has been impossible to schedule appointments, even for something as vital as his annual physical.
“I’ve been trying over two years to get that done,” Lindgren said. “[The physical] is supposed to look into health care problems associated with 9/11.”
“Oh, God yes,” he said when asked if health care access is worse since last year. “I can’t get through on the phone. I can’t get them to call me back when I leave a message.”
CDC spokesperson Christina Spring said the agency is “aware that some members in the Nationwide Provider Network (NPN) have experienced issues in accessing care.”
“The WTC Health Program is actively engaging to address concerns and create a realistic plan and timeline to improve quality of performance,” Spring said.
More than 80,000 first responders and 36,000 civilians are enrolled in the program.
Lindgren said he and most of the others who rushed to the fallen towers did not think they would make it out alive.
“We didn’t run away. Everybody ran toward it. Everybody took the risks,” Lindgren said. “Now, when we need help?”
“Speechless,” he said.
Critics claim delays in care can be as deadly as 9/11 was.
“I think everybody that responded thought they were going to die. I know I felt that way,” Lindgren said. “And we were right really because we are dying.”
Lindgren and other New York City municipal retirees are also concerned about a change in their city health care plan.
Last month, city officials and employee unions agreed to change the plan to Medicare Advantage, a move that’s expected to save $600 million a year.
The decision is expected to lead to a legal battle but if it goes through, some retirees fear it will cost them more for interior coverage.
“Now, it’s a one-two punch,” Lindgren said. “So. we’re kind of like between a rock and a hard place as far as getting taken care. It’s unnerving.”