A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

McConnell announces permanent extension of healthcare benefits for retired coal miners, families

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday he has secured a permanent extension of healthcare benefits for thousands of retired coal miners and their families.

The Louisville Republican said the funding, taken from his HELP for Coal Miners Health Care Act, will be part of the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill, which is expected to be voted up by the House and Senate this week.

“I recognize the extension of health benefits for this group of retirees will not address all of the challenges facing every Kentucky miner or retiree,” said McConnell. “But I am proud that it will address many of the healthcare needs of thousands of miners who fell victim to the steep downturn in coal production.”

More than 3,000 retired Kentucky coal miners will receive a permanent extension in their healthcare benefits, said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. once Congress approves an appropriations bill this week. (Kentucky Today Photo by Tom Latek)

About 22,600 retired miners, dependents and widows, including more than 3,000 in Kentucky will be affected if the legislation receives final passage.

“This is a tremendous victory and Sen. McConnell played a decisive role in making sure it happened,” said Steve Earle of Madisonville, Ky., and United Mine Workers Association International District 12 Vice President. “Our sincere thanks go to him and all those in Congress who worked for this day to come.”

Congress has stepped in twice before – once in 1992 and again in 2006 – to help retired miners keep health benefits. When thousands more risked losing benefits at the end of 2016, McConnell intervened again, helping secure a four-month extension for them and their dependents.

McConnell’s office said he sent a letter in January to then President-elect Donald Trump, seeking a permanent fix to expiring benefits for retired miners.

“As your Senator, I’ve been fighting on behalf of our miners, and look forward to continuing to work with the Trump Administration to help provide much-needed relief to coal communities,” McConnell wrote.

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