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WVU expert: Coal miners’ healthcare plans hang in the balance unless Congress acts

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More than 20,000 coal miners and their families are set to lose their healthcare benefits at the end of the month unless Congress acts to provide additional funding for their care. Miners were given a reprieve in December when Congress extended the United Mine Workers of America health plan, which will be depleted by April 30.

An expert at West Virginia University says Congress is now debating whether to prop up the miners’ healthcare or their pensions, and to do both could cost taxpayers billions.

“At the crux of the debate is the question whether the federal government should guarantee both healthcare and pension benefits to miners, or whether the federal government should merely preserve healthcare benefits and allow the pension trust fund to go bankrupt,” said Simon Haeder, an assistant professor in the West Virginia University John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy & Politics and the Department of Political Science. “Both solutions are inherently costly and the most extensive intervention could cost federal taxpayers in excess of $4 billion.”

A little-known provision of the ACA has dramatically eased coal miners’ access to benefits; however, they may become collateral casualties in the continuing efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, Haeder said.

He can be reached by email at simon.haeder@mail.wvu.edu or by phone at 559.908.2704.

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.

-WVU-

pp/04/20/17                                                                                     

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