As Congressional leaders today continue their horse-trading over healthcare, dissenting voices are getting louder, threatening to sink any chances that President Obama will get a bill to his liking approved by August. Meanwhile, the EPA has stepped in to help pay the medical bills of a Montana town, and NPR's Joe Shapiro pays tribute to a 104-year-old woman who cared day in and out for ill friends and family.
First, Politico quotes Senate Republican Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)'s huffy dismissal of the Kennedy-Dodd bill ("The bill we have been presented with is so flawed that it cannot be fixed and we need to start over"), and notes that behind the scenes, special interests are manning torpedos.
Still hoping to bring critics onboard his boat, healthcare powerbroker and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) now says he's decided to "slow things down," too, maybe not hammering out his committee's mark-up of a bill until after Congress's July recess.
Baucus did manage a late victory yesterday for his home state of Montana. Seventeen years after the town of Libby, Montana earned Superfund status because of asbestos contamination from the local mine, the EPA has declared the town and its neighbor, Troy, a "public health emergency."
Better late than never, say town residents, who have lost at least 400 family members to asbestos-related cancers and other illness. Thousands more residents are still sick and, thanks to the designation, will be eligible for $6 million in federal funds for medical care not covered by other insurance.
And, on a quieter note this morning, NPR's Joe Shapiro pays lovely tribute to one of the 20 percent of Americans 75 or older who are right now caring for a sicker or older family member. As Shapiro says, most "do it for love and they do it for free."
Clarice Morant was 104 when she died last week, after decades of caring for a brother who died two years ago, and a sister who died in December.