A private contractor responsible for administering medical benefits to 9/11 first responders and survivors who live outside metropolitan New York has lost its government contract, according to a company email reviewed by NBC News.
The email says the contract has been awarded to another vendor starting in mid-2022.
An NBC News investigation in September reported concerns from nearly two dozen first responders and survivors of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, about the World Trade Center Health Program, a program that provides treatment for 9/11-related illnesses.
At the time, 9/11 responders and survivors said the program was failing to pay medical bills, providing inadequate treatment options and neglecting to address the needs of a population with significant rates of post-traumatic stress disorder.
LHI, based in Wisconsin, has administered the program for members of the 9/11 community who live outside metropolitan New York since 2008.
“LHI has been honored to be a trusted partner to NIOSH and the World Trade Center Health Program for more than a decade. Our team will continue to provide the highest level of service and care to health program members during the remainder of our contract,” an LHI spokesperson said.
NIOSH, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the federal agency that oversees the contract, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The government began soliciting bids for a new contract in August. LHI entered a bridge contract while the government was soliciting bids. LHI will continue to provide services until the new contractor takes over in mid-2022, according to the email.
The email added that LHI’s parent company, Optum, is evaluating whether to file a protest with the Government Accountability Office “to challenge the award.”
“I’m shocked,” said Michael Day, a 9/11 first responder and former emergency medical technician with the Fire Department of New York. “I’m glad, because hopefully whoever got the contract will do better. I don’t think you can do much worse than LHI has done.”
In September, a bipartisan group of House members from New York summoned LHI and the federal agency that oversees the contract to Capitol Hill to address concerns exposed in the NBC News report.
When it was asked to speak to Congress, LHI said in a statement, “We are committed to treating every individual we serve with care and compassion, and we will continue to carefully review any concerns brought to our attention.”
Pat Aubert, the wife of a 9/11 first responder who says he struggled with LHI for years, said: “It’s huge that I don’t have to deal with these people anymore. Hopefully [the new contract vendor] will do the right thing and get this program the way it should be.”