Asbestos Trust Fund Legislation Still Short on Funding
WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 28, 2005 - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) are meeting Tuesday to discuss an asbestos bill that would set up a trust fund for asbestos victims, but deprive them of their right to a jury trial. Sen. Specter hopes to bring the bill before the Committee by the end of the week. Attempts to pass similar legislation last year failed.
According to labor leaders and many Democrats, the proposed legislation provides inadequate compensation for people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos diseases. The AFL-CIO says that it will "strongly oppose ... legislation whose main purpose is to bail out companies at the expense of victims" (National Underwriter, February 22, 2005).
Sen. Specter believes that the amount of the company-funded trust should be kept at $140 billion, while other Republicans and insurers want to lower that amount. The Senate Judiciary Committee had once suggested about $153 billion for the fund. Former Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle (D-SD), had originally proposed $145 billion, then agreed to $140 billion. Labor leaders seek much higher amounts, pointing out that otherwise, the trust fund is likely to run out of money before all claims are met.
Asbestos Legislation Could Delay Compensation to Workers
As if inadequate funding is not enough of a problem, the proposed legislation also creates a bureaucracy that could delay the processing of claims. People who are on the verge of having their cases resolved would be forced to begin the process of going through an unwieldy bureaucracy to obtain compensation.
Many medical experts call the bill's criteria for classifying disease types outdated and inaccurate. Also, the amounts assigned to each type of disease are much less than what has been available through the court system and may not be enough to cover medical expenses, financial losses, and suffering.
Tell Your Senator to Vote "No" on the Current Asbestos Legislation
Brayton Purcell believes that the current asbestos legislation limits the rights of asbestos victims while doing nothing to ensure that they are truly compensated for their losses. We are very concerned that this flawed asbestos bill may be resurrected this week.
We urge you to contact your Senators immediately and tell them to vote "NO" on the asbestos trust fund legislation. Timing is important. A telephone call may be the quickest and best way to reach your Senators, although email is also acceptable. You can find your Senators' names, emails, and telephone numbers on the U.S. Senate web site.