Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (Dem.) is telling retired mine workers in his state that he hopes a permanent healthcare plan for them and for coal miner’s widows can but put in place by the end of April.
Coal miners insurance was established decades ago by President Harry Truman but is scheduled to end shortly, leaving former miners with diseases like black lung or mesothelioma to fend for themselves in regards to costly medical bills or other expenses associated with their illnesses.
Brown says the majority of Congress supports the miners’ healthcare bill. It’s just a matter of logistics at this point.
“…the problem is getting the Republican leadership to schedule a vote and get this thing done the right way,” Brown told a roundtable group of coal miners gathered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Steubenville, Ohio earlier this week. “We are working on a permanent health care fix, and there is a very good chance we can see that passed by the end of April as part of a larger bill. But we must continue the lobbying efforts.”
The legislation reintroduced by Brown is dubbed the Miners Protection Act, which will address any shortfalls in the United Mine Workers of America pension plan established in 1974, ensuring that retirees receive healthcare that is permanent until their death and/or that of their spouse.
Many of the miners have been making trips to Washington D.C. to lobby alongside Senator Brown for the insurance, which will give them peace of mind, they explain.
“We were promised health care. We keep our promises and we want the Congress to keep their promise. Brown has been very passionate about this issue and now it is time to turn our focus on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and President Trump,” said Dave Dilly, a retired miner from Coshocton, Ohio.
“The lobbyists in Washington all have their black suits and black ties. But we are real people and we are coal miners,” he added. “People enjoy flipping the switch to turn their lights on and now they get to meet the people who make that possible.”
Brown spent 90 minutes listening to a variety of stories from former miners and their spouses. Many were similar, describing a long life spent serving underground in less than ideal conditions and later battling the diseases that go along with the occupation.
“I graduated from Cadiz High School in 1972 and went right into the coal mines,” said Ron Edwards. “Later on, we found out the paint the company used wasn’t safe, and the asbestos we used in the mines was dangerous,” he explained to Brown and the others gather at the roundtable discussion.
Now, if no action is taken, the miners will lose their healthcare by the end of this month.