Montana asbestos victims get help in midnight amendment slipped into the health care bill.

The frequently forgotten and often ignored asbestos victims in Libby, Mont., came out as possible big winners in the dead-of-night battle over health care reform.

Les Skramstad and Gayla Benefiled at a memorial from Libby asbestos victims.  (c) Photo A. Schneider

Les Skramstad and Gayla Benefiled at a memorial for Libby asbestos victims. (c) Photo A. Schneider

According to the Associated Press, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus quietly inserted language in a package of last-minute amendments that will grant the asbestos victims of the tiny town in the Northwest corner of the state access to Medicare benefits.

Hundreds of people – miners, their families and other townsfolk who had no connection to the now-closed W.R. Grace vermiculite mine – have died from asbestos-related disease. An estimated 2,000 or more of the 10,000 people who live in the county surrounding Libby were diagnosed with signs of the disease.

I couldn’t reach any press people in Baucus’ office for details but the Montana democrat long fought for the people of Libby.

It would be great of there was another amendment slipped in that required the government to warn the millions of home and business owners across the country that the vermiculite insulation in their attics and walls is most likely made from the same asbestos-containing material from the Libby mine.

That would be a great holiday gift that could save lots of lives.

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