May 04, 2017

Manchin Praises Passage of Spending Bill Guaranteeing Retired Miners Healthcare

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today voted for the fiscal year 2017 spending bill that includes a permanent solution for retired miners’ healthcare benefits, which Senator Manchin brokered with President Trump and House and Senate Leadership. This provision requires that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime healthcare benefits to retired miners and their families who are facing uncertainty as a result of the financial crisis and corporate bankruptcies.

“Today, our retired miners who have been put in limbo for months and who have told me that they have been afraid to go to the doctor for fear of their healthcare being ripped away from them, can finally rest easy,” Senator Manchin said. “Congress has finally passed a permanent healthcare solution to keep the promise and ensure that they have the healthcare benefits they have earned. We couldn’t have done this without the United Mine Workers of America and West Virginia coal miners who came to Washington D.C. for years to talk with lawmakers and tell their deeply personal stories. Although Congress waited until the absolute last minute, we have finally done right by them to honor what they have sacrificed to power our nation.”

“Over seventy years ago, President Harry Truman brokered the historic Krug-Lewis agreement that guaranteed health and pension benefits for coal miners who put their lives at risk every day to meet our country’s energy needs. President Truman recognized the vital role our coal miners played in our country’s success and he believed their hard work earned them guaranteed health and pension benefits. This agreement has always been a sacred bond between worker and country, and I am more determined than ever to fulfill our whole obligation and secure retired miners pension benefits as well.”

For years Senator Manchin has fought to pass his legislation, the Miners Protection Act, a long-term solution for retired miners’ healthcare and pensions. This legislation would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency. It would also make certain retirees who lose health care benefits following the bankruptcy or insolvency of his or her employer eligible for the 1993 Benefit Plan.

In October 2016, 16,300 of our nation’s coal miners and their families were told that they would lose their health care by December 31st. But instead of passing the Miners Protection Act, the Senate waited until the last minute to pass a 4-month extension. On March 1, 2017, 22,600 miners received letters letting them know that their healthcare benefits will be terminated at the end of April.  Then, 22,600 of our nation’s coal miners and their families were set to lose their health care. Congress went over the deadline and passed a one-week extension in order to come up with an agreement to pass a permanent healthcare solution, which was voted on and made final today.