It’s been one of the most consistent parts of Donald Trump’s platform: “On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver (sic) a full repeal of Obamacare.”
That, it turns out, has miners worried.
President-Elect Trump has pledged over and over to revive a dying American coal industry. He won American coal and mining country by a dominating margin. And a President Trump could reverse many Obama provisions that made it expensive, if not impossible, to open a new coal-fired power plant.
But Obamacare contains a crucial provision to protect coal miners: the Byrd Amendments.
These amendments shift the burden of proof for black lung disease claims from miners themselves to mining companies. These amendments state that anyone who’s worked underground for 15 years or more and can prove a respiratory disability is assumed to have black lung or complications from it, leaving coal companies to prove otherwise.
Before the Affordable Care Act, a miner and/or a miner’s dependents had to accept the burden of proof when they made a Black Lung Disease claim and defend the claim in a “court,” arguing that mine work — and mine work alone — caused their respiratory illness. Stat News reports that it was “almost impossible” to win compensation this way, citing Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).
This could have giant consequences for mining families. Monthly benefits can be worth up to $1289 per month for affected spouses, families and dependents.