Miners Protection Act

Becca Schimmel

United Mine Workers retirees are celebrating a permanent fix for health benefits secured in the federal spending agreement Congress reached over the weekend. However, the deal left them with more work ahead to shore up faltering pension funds.

Coal retirees have been fighting to secure benefits for nearly five years. With benefits set to expire at the end of April, the omnibus spending bill agreed upon by Congressional negotiators secured healthcare funding for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

UMWA communications director Phil Smith called it a huge relief.

Office of Sen. Manchin

Congressional leaders are cautiously optimistic that a budget deal could protect health benefits for retired miners.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said the Senate will back permanently extending health benefits for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

Manchin said he spoke Wednesday with President Trump who said he supports the miners. Without Congressional action, miners benefits will expire at the end of the month.

At a press event in Washington, West Virginia’s Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also called for a permanent fix, but she’s not declaring victory yet.

Miners' Message To Trump: Protect Our Benefits

Mar 20, 2017
Becca Schimmel

President Donald Trump’s campaign-style rally in Louisville got the attention of some retired coal miners in the region. They’re particularly worried about being able to afford health insurance on a new plan.

Retired union miners have been traveling to Washington to urge passage of The Miner’s Protection Act, which would secure their health and pension benefits. More than 22,000 coal retirees and beneficiaries could lose their benefits at the end of April if congress doesn’t act. They’ve requested a meeting with President Trump. Retired miner Steve Earle said there are a few things he’d like to say to the president.

 


Becca Schimmel

Retired coal miners face a one-two punch to their health benefits that could leave many of them in the lurch. A repeal of Obamacare and the expiration of miner’s health protections could make it hard for any coal retiree to get health care.

Ohio Valley retirees have been meeting one-on-one with congressional leaders to talk about the risks to their benefits. Some provisions of the Affordable Care Act are especially important to miners. The so-called Byrd Amendment deals with benefits for miners suffering from black lung, and miners hope it will be restored if the Act is repealed. Miners are also concerned about the Act’s pre-existing condition provision.

United Mine Workers communications director Phil Smith said the nature of the work makes every retired miner a “walking basket of pre-existing conditions.”


becca schimmel

Congressional Democrats say they won’t allow a vote on President Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative unless lawmakers pass a bill helping coal miners.

The Miner’s Protection Act includes healthcare and pension benefits for coal miners and their families. World Trade Online reports that Robert Lighthizer cannot be confirmed as U.S Trade Representative without a waiver, because of his representation of foreign governments in the 1980s. Senate Democrats say they’ll support the waiver only if it moves out of committee alongside--or after--the miner’s bill.