Shepherd Snyder Published

Black Lung Clinics Statewide Awarded More Than $2 Million

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.

Over $2 million in federal funding is going towards supporting black lung clinics across the state.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will go towards the state’s Black Lung and Coal Miner Clinics Program to provide financial help to the program’s health and treatment services.

Some of the services the program offers include lung function testing and rehabilitation, chest imaging, case management and benefits counseling.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito said in a joint statement that miners are entitled to the medical care and treatment provided by the clinics, and that they will continue to advocate for more accessible healthcare for coal miners in the Senate.

Current reports indicate that cases of black lung disease are on the increase, even with fewer miners currently working. It is also affecting younger miners. The increase is tied to smaller coal seams causing miners to work in areas with more rock, raising the concentration of silica.

The funding also comes after Congress let a higher excise tax for coal expire at the end of last year, putting the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund further in debt and in danger of insolvency.

Inaction to renew the higher rate reduced excise tax revenue on both underground and surface coal by 55 percent.

A 2018 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office says the reduction could see the fund $15 billion in debt by 2050.

More information about the West Virginia Black Lung Clinics Program, including services available by county, is available online.