Don’t Let Mine Retirees Down

Everyone on Capitol Hill seems to want to help retired coal miners whose health insurance and pensions are in dire jeopardy. But disagreement over how to do it may leave the miners and their families out in the cold.

Time is running out. By Jan. 1, health care benefits for an estimated 16,300 retirees will be eliminated. Pensions also are in danger, though the time frame there is not as immediate.

A few Democrats have seized upon the situation to score political points. They insist Republican leaders are  abandoning the miners.

It is not that simple, as we have pointed out repeatedly. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others concerned about a bill to bail out the health care program have legitimate worries about it.

One is that the measure would help only retirees who worked as members of  the United Mine Workers union. Non-union retirees would not benefit from the current bailout bill.

That needs to be remedied at some point.

For now, however, thousands of retired union coal miners need a bailout to keep their health insurance, and they need it very soon.

Another concern is that several union pension plans in addition to the one serving retired miners are in deep trouble, too.

At some point, Congress will have to deal with the other retirement programs. But, again, the ex-miners need help now.

McConnell, whose constituents include many in the coal industry, has offered a compromise to get something done before the Jan. 1 deadline. It would fund the mine retirees’ health care benefits for about four months. A more permanent solution would be crafted later.

Incredibly, some of the very Democrats who have accused McConnell of not wanting to help the miners now reject his compromise.

That is politics at its worst. It appears the only way the mine retirees will get the immediate assistance is for lawmakers to go along with the McConnell plan or something like it. That being the situation, those resisting the idea will deserve all the blame if thousands of retirees and their families find themselves worried about a new year without health insurance.

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