Chamber of Commerce (Again) Hopes to Scale Back Proposed Black Lung Benefits

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Friday, March 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm

With black lung disease on the rise in Appalachia, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (D) last year took action. As Democratic leaders were piecing together their sweeping health reform proposal, the nine-term Byrd attached language that would expand black lung benefits for coal miners and their families.

It hasn’t been well received by the business community.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is attacking the provision (again), Politico reported yesterday, and their strategy for killing it is clear: They want to put it in the same category as the special Medicaid deal carved out to win the support of Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) — a deal so unpopular that even Nelson doesn’t support it any longer.

“This had to be another one of those backrooms deals that was put into the larger bill to cobble votes together,” Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist, told Politico.

Never mind that that wasn’t the case. Byrd’s office has been quick to point out that the language was a part of the Senate HELP Committee bill that passed that panel last July.

“This is nothing new coming from the chamber,” Byrd’s office said today in an email. “They were opposed to this provision before it passed the Senate in December, as they were with the entire health care reform bill.”

Under current law, miners have to prove that they’ve got black lung disease before they become eligible for benefits through the Black Lung Disability Trust, a 32-year-old program funded largely with an excise tax on coal companies. The Byrd amendments would (1) extend benefits to spouses of miners who’ve died from black lung, and (2) install the legal presumption that sick miners with at least 15 years experience are suffering from black lung, thereby allowing them to tap the benefits unless insurers can prove that the illness is something else.

In a January statement, Byrd said that the changes are only fair to the workers of Appalachia.

These black lung benefits have been promised to coal miners who come down with totally disabling black lung disease. But too often the coal companies and the insurers have chosen to elude their responsibility to these ailing miners by out-lawyering and literally out-lasting them.

Who will stand up for these families who have lost a loved one or the ability to earn a living because of the years they spent toiling inside a coal mine?

Not, it would seem, the Chamber of Commerce.

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chrisjay
Comment posted March 12, 2010 @ 11:03 pm

The Chamber is full of loonies, wingnuts & cranks. Most intelligent corporations have divorced themselves from this unholy cabal due to their medieval & contrarian worldview, esp. in regards to the virtually untapped nascent green economy


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[...] don’t care about their employees or their customers, only their owners and their profits. An example reported by Mike Lillis in the Washington Independent: With black lung disease on the rise in Appalachia, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (D) last year [...]


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twardg
Comment posted March 15, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

This provision is disastrous and likely unconstitutional. It returns the Black Lung program to the unscientific days more than 30 years ago. Contrary to the statement that it would “extend benefits to spouses of miners who’ve died from black lung” which the Act already does, it would automatically entitle the spouse to benefits if the miner was receiving benefits even if the miner dies from being hit by a bus! The regulations already limit the amount of evidence that can be admitted in a Black Lung case and the state of medicine is much better than it was in the 1960's and 70's when presumptions were necessary. Why should a worker with 15 years of exposure to dust, but let's say 50 years of cigarette smoking, be presumed to be disabled by his or her work? Why should the coal mining industry be required to pay for a person's personal choice that leads to their inability to work.


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[...] Chamber of Commerce (Again) Hopes to Scale Back Proposed Black Lung Benefits (Washington Independent): The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is attacking the provision (again), Politico reported yesterday, and their strategy for killing it is clear: They want to put it in the same category as the special Medicaid deal carved out to win the support of Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) — a deal so unpopular that even Nelson doesn’t support it any longer. [...]


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blogmafia
Comment posted September 2, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

Thank you. Fine issues.I have added to your favorites


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