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Kentucky Law Could Restrict Health Care for Miners Suffering From Black Lung Disease

A Kentucky law that goes into effect Saturday could make it more difficult for miners suffering from black lung to claim federal benefits, Vice News reports.

The law mandates that only five of Kentucky's 11 pulmonologists, or lung experts, may examine miners' X-rays in benefit claims.


Three of these five qualified doctors have acted as expert witnesses for coal companies and insurers in challenges to benefit claims, and the lawmaker who sponsored the bill told Vice that they "heard a lot from the coal association on this."

Cases of black lung in Appalachia have skyrocketed to historic levels in recent years, and this week a Kentucky court indicted eight former coal company officials on charges that they rigged safety tests in mines to falsify coal dust test results.

As reported by Vice News:

"It doesn't make any sense from a medical perspective," Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist and black lung expert Scott Laney told VICE News in an interview at the agency's Morgantown, West Virginia, offices. The law could restrict coal miners' access to care, he said. "Certainly it's going to restrict their access to disability compensation proceedings."
Moreover, of the five pulmonologists who will still be allowed to examine X-rays when state claims are filed, three have acted as expert witnesses on behalf of coal companies or their insurers as they sought to challenge miners' benefit claims, as was reported by NPR in March. Because of this, many black lung experts and advocates say the law is an attempt by the coal industry to limit the amount of money they have to spend on coal miner healthcare in the midst of a mounting epidemic.

For a deeper dive:

Vice

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