Congress

Another part of Obamacare that Republicans might try to save: miners’ black lung benefits

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky

Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers has moved to preserve an element of the Affordable Care Act that makes it easier for coal miners to obtain black lung benefits.

Though Republicans in Congress have made the law’s repeal a priority, Rogers has co-sponsored a resolution that calls on lawmakers to protect the Byrd Amendment, which automatically qualifies miners for black lung benefits if they’ve worked in underground mines for 15 or more years and can prove it has resulted in a respiratory impairment.

The provision, named for the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, also guarantees black lung benefits for miners’ widows. It was made part of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, also known as Obamacare.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) introduced the Miners Protection Act in 2015. The bill has 26 cosponsors and was approved by the Senate Finance Committee in September. Here, he urges other congressmembers to do more for retired coal miners in e

“Black lung benefits are critical to the hard working coal miners of Eastern Kentucky, as well as their widows,” Rogers said in a statement, “and I will continue fighting to protect the benefits that they have earned.”

The black lung provision could be one of many aspects of Obamacare that survive repeal.

Though the percentage of Kentuckians without health insurance has dropped to 6 percent last year from 15 percent in 2010, Donald Trump carried the state by overwhelming margins. Trump has promised to sign the law’s repeal when it reaches his desk.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, have yet to agree on what might replace it.

“We must repeal and replace Obamacare with an affordable plan that provides access to the care that Americans want and deserve,” Rogers said. “However, we must carefully review each portion of the law and work to protect sections like black lung benefits.”

Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, speaks to a crowd of thousands of retired coal miners who came to Washington by the bus load to push lawmakers to vote on a bill that would save their pension and health care benefits.

Curtis Tate: 202-383-6018, @tatecurtis

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