Jessica Lilly Published

Retired Miner with Black Lung Approved for Transplant


Former coal miner Robert Bailey was recently approved for a double lung transplant after waiting months for a black lung medical benefits claim to be approved. We spoke with Robert Bailey in June when he was waiting to hear if Patriot Coal’s insurance company would approve his appointment for a medical evaluation. 

Bailey’s doctor told him he needed a lung transplant in February of this year. Since then, he’s been working towards the waiting list. As we reported in June, Bailey had to cancel an evaluation appointment as Patriot Coal’s insurance company, Underwriters Safety and Claims, evaluated his request for coverage.  We caught up with Bailey at his kitchen table in Princeton about three months later to recap his journey.

“I felt like if they delayed much time,” he said, “sending my records here or there or not being in a hurry to get approvals or whatever that this two to three years that I might have will be pushed over and I wouldn’t make to receive a transplant like some of the other coal miners that have lost their lives waiting on that approval.”

Black lung benefits could come from several different parties like the coal company, an insurance company, or the Federal Black Lung Program. According to the Office of Worker’s Compensation, currently, the Federal Black Lung Program has approved only eight miners for lung transplants. To date, only four miners have had the transplant surgery after receiving approval, while others continue to wait on the transplant list established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Bailey is not included in these numbers as he was told, it’s Patriot Coal’s insurance that will pay.

Senator Rockefeller and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania announced plans to work on a new bill to address the issues revealed during the CPI investigation … Bailey hopes to see the bureaucratic process and backlog to be cleaned up as well.