Buried in the deal-clinching health care 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, Mont.
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 health care bill.