Miners Lament Trump’s Silence On Health Plan

In Healthcare On
- Updated

In mining areas like Uniontown, Pa., and surrounding Fayette and Greene Counties, which Mr. Trump carried 2 to 1, it is an upsetting and potentially costly prospect. “It’s just a terrible, terrible feeling,” said one of the retirees, David VanSickle, who spent four decades at work in the mines. “I think about that 25 times a day.”

The president has offered no public comment on the issue, even as he has rolled back regulations on mine operators, an omission that has not escaped the notice of Mr. VanSickle and other retired miners.

“To me, that was kind of a promise he did make to us,” Mr. VanSickle said about Mr. Trump, whom he supported last fall. “He promised to help miners, not just mining companies.”

Responsibility for the retirees’ health plans has increasingly shifted to the federal government in recent years, as struggling coal companies have shed their liabilities in bankruptcy court. Congress voted last fall to finance benefits for a large group of retirees for several months, but House and Senate Republican leaders have yet to agree on a longer-term solution.

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Coal Mine Reality for President Trump

As much as President Trump has fantasized a glowing future for the fading coal industry, it is the miners of the past and their widows who urgently need help right now from Washington as their retirement health plan collapses.

Legislation is being considered in Congress to help 22,500 retired union miners who have received notices that their health care benefits will be cut off on Monday unless new funding is approved. A few short-term fixes have been passed by Congress in recent years. But the miners, many with black lung and other diseases from years of labor down below, deserve a long-term solution for a more secure future.

Once firmly financed in the heyday of the industry, the health plan has hit the same hard times as Big Coal, with numerous companies going bankrupt and shedding their responsibility to pay into the fund. The industry has receded in the face of cheaper, cleaner natural gas, while there are fewer career miners contributing to the union’s share of the funding.

Anxious miners have been buttonholing lawmakers, noting that President Trump, their nonstop champion in his election campaign, has made a show of loosening environmental regulations to help mining companies regain profits. Yet he has been publicly silent on the miners’ health care problem. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said he has talked with Mr. Trump privately and has been assured that the president supports a permanent solution for the miners. “Tell them I’m doing everything I can,” Mr. Trump was quoted by the senator.

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