Approve Pension Bailout for Miners

It appears a $1 trillion spending plan on which Congress is set to act will include assistance for retired miners whose health insurance program has nearly run out of money.

But “appears” can be a dangerous word on Capitol Hill. Before the retirees and their families can consider themselves home-free, specific measures must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

One of them, the HELP for Coal Miners Healthcare Act, is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. Votes on it and a companion bill in the Senate are expected this week.

McKinley has been working tirelessly to help the retirees for many months. His dedication to them is because many of the about 22,000 people affected by the problem live right here in the congressman’s district.

As chairman of the House Coal Caucus, McKinley recognizes the federal government’s responsibility on the issue. It is that for many years, the retirees’ insurance program was funded by fees paid by mining companies on every ton of coal they produced.

That source of support has been unreliable during the past few years in part because of the enormous number of mines shut down because of government action.

A temporary mechanism to keep the program afloat was adopted about four months ago. But as McKinley and other concerned lawmakers understand, the retirees should not be forced to worry, month by month, whether Congress will continue supporting the bailout. McKinley’s HELP bill and the Senate version provide for a permanent solution.

On Monday, it seemed both houses of Congress would approve the measure. They should do so this week, rescuing the retirees and their families from a dilemma not of their own making.

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