Augusta Free Press

Virginia members urge congressional leadership to protect miners’ healthcare

In a letter today, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Gerry Connolly, A. Donald McEachin, and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (all D-VA) urged congressional leaders to take action to protect retired coal miners who risk losing their healthcare benefits as part of negotiations to keep the government funded before the end of the week.

Last year, Congress reached a deal to extend government funding and retired miners’ health care benefits until April 28th. In March, retired coal miners and their families began receiving letters notifying them of the impending termination of their health care coverage.

“This nation was built on the backs of our workers. Let us not forsake them. We implore you to immediately pass a permanent health care fix for the miners and commit to working with us to finding and passing a solution for the imperiled 1974 Pension Fund,” the members wrote.

Retired miners are facing uncertainty because the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan is severely underfunded, still reeling from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and a series of bankruptcies in the coal industry.

The Virginia congressional members pressed for the inclusion in negotiations of the Miners Protection Act, bipartisan legislation which would transfer federal funds to shore up the underfunded health insurance and pension plan.

“Anything less is merely an extension of the ongoing uncertainty and agony that these men and women have been carrying for years. Anything less is an unacceptable and tragic failure of this body to keep its word to the men and women who powered our nation to prosperity at the risk of their own health and lives,” the members added.

Full text of the letter can be found here