Tester, Baucus fight to secure settlements for Libby asbestos victims

Senators call on Medicare agency to bypass red tape that is delaying payments victims deserve

(Washington, DC) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are working to help Libby asbestos victims get the settlements they deserve after years of being exposed to asbestos. The settlements are currently bogged down in red tape at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Baucus and Tester are calling on CMS to bypass the red tape so Libby victims can finalize their settlements and get the compensation they deserve.

“Folks in Libby had their good health taken away from them through no fault of their own, and the courts agreed that they deserve to be compensated,” Tester said. “That money needs to be used to ensure they have access to the quality, affordable health care.”

“The people of Libby have already been hurt by greed and we can’t allow them to be hurt even further by red tape. Every day these folks are forced to wait for the settlement they deserve is one day too many,” Baucus said. “This is a commonsense solution that gets the folks in Libby the closure and support they deserve and it saves badly needed money for the Medicare program at the same time.”

Tester and Baucus called CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to a meeting with lawyers for the Libby victims in September. The Senators followed that meeting with a letter yesterday, again calling upon the agency to bypass the red tape and allow the settlements to move forward.

Additional Background

Under current law, Medicare has the right to recover the cost of medical treatment it paid for due to the negligence of another party. This is known as Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP).

Example: A man is injured in a car crash. He goes to the hospital and Medicare pays for his treatment. The man later sues the other driver and receives a settlement because of his injury. A portion of the settlement then goes to pay back Medicare for the man’s care.

In the case of Libby, many victims of asbestos poisoning were treated under Medicare. So, by law Medicare is entitled to a portion of the Libby settlements to pay back those expenses. But, the process to determine how much Medicare is owed has drug on for more than one year – preventing the settlements from being finalized and keeping victims from the compensation they deserve.

Working with lawyers for the victims in Libby, Baucus and Tester found a solution where CMS can waive its right to the settlements if doing so is in the best interest of Medicare. Baucus and Tester point at that the Libby case indeed meets that requirement because some of the settlements have set up funds to pay for Libby asbestos victims’ past and future health care. Therefore, waiving Medicare’s right to a portion and allowing the settlements to move forward will save Medicare more money over the long run because the program will not have to pay for future treatment.