Coal Tattoo

Health care and coal miners


 A roof bolter at work at Blue Mt. Energy’s Deserado Mine, Rangely, Colo. Photo by Phil Smith, UMWA.

Interesting news out there today about the latest version of a health-care bill and its potential impacts on folks like coal miners, who work in dangerous occupations and have pretty valuable health-care insurance plans through their employers.

Apparently, the proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, would levy a heavy tax on those insurance plans — a tax that folks like West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the committee’s second-ranking Democrat — thinks is unfair. According to this Associated Press account:

Rockefeller, who met privately with Obama on Wednesday, said the proposal “could prevent workers in high-risk professions from getting the health benefits that they need, particularly coal miners.”

The good folks over at West Virginia Public Broadcasting also had a story, explaining:

 Rockefeller says the Baucus plan would be disastrous for coal miners. He explains that the plan calls for an 35 percent excise tax on the value of a company’s health insurance. Rockefeller says that means an extra eight thousand dollars for single insured and 21 thousand dollars for families. 

“Sen. Baucus isn’t from West Virginia though he is from a coal state,” Sen. Rockefeller said, “and he should understand that that means every single, virtually every single coal miner is going to have a big, big tax put on them because the tax would be put on the company,.

“The company will immediately pass it down in lower benefits to, because they’re self-insured. Most of them because they’re larger, pass down lower benefits and probably higher premiums to coal miners who are getting very good health care benefits for a very good reason that is like steel workers and others they’re doing about the most dangerous job that can be done in America. 

“So that’s not really a smart idea. In fact it’s a really dangerous idea. I’m not even sure coal miners in West Virginia are even aware that that’s one of the things awaiting them if this bill passes.”  

It’s important to keep in mind that, while Baucus is a Democrat, his proposed bill was worked out to try to appease Republicans, so that the legislation would be deemed “bipartisan,” a magic buzzword that apparently makes legislation better — regardless of what’s really in it.