Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E., (WV-1) released the following statement after the Senate followed the lead of the House and passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that extended health care benefits for coal miner retirees and their family members through April. If this legislation had not passed, over 15,000 people would have been in danger of losing their healthcare starting January 1st.
"While it's disappointing to see only a short term extension of benefits at this time, this issue was way too important to offer false hope and risk our miners walking away with nothing. This CR has now given us a chance to fight another day," said McKinley.
"I have already spoken to members of House Leadership, incoming Chairman Frelinghuysen and incoming Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and received a commitment to work toward a long-term solution for healthcare and pensions early in the next Congress. It's time to work together and give our miners peace of mind so they know their benefits won't be jeopardized by politics," McKinley said.
The Continuing Resolution (CR) extends healthcare benefits for many coal miner retirees and their families for the length of the CR which extends to April 28th, 2017. If action is not taken, over 15,000 people could begin to lose their health benefits starting on January 1st. Congressman McKinley spoke on the House floor and called for action on this issue early next Congress.
Congressman McKinley has been fighting for a solution to this problem for more than four years, working with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), operators, other industry stakeholders, and members of Congress to solve this problem and introduced The Coal Healthcare and Pension Protection Act in 2013. The Senate subsequently introduced a companion bill in 2015.
McKinley recently led a bipartisan group of 29 Representatives and wrote a letter to House leadership, calling for immediate action on this issue.
The Coal Healthcare and Pension Protection Act:
· Protects pension benefits for 120,000 retirees and their families, and the healthcare coverage of 22,000 retirees threatened by coal company bankruptcies.
· Requires excess funds from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund to be set aside for retired miners' health benefits and ensures the 1974 UMWA pension plan remains solvent.
· Keeps a promise initiated by the Krug-Lewis Agreement signed by the Truman Administration in 1946.
· Prevents the UMWA pension fund from going bankrupt and dumping these retirees into the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).