LETCHER COUNTY, Ky. – During his campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump promised to bring back coal to the economy.
Now, many in coal-country are worried they might lose benefits linked to black lung disease if Trump repeals Obamacare.
Three sentences in the Affordable Care Act made it easier for victims of black lung to receive monthly federal benefits if they worked 15 years or more in the mines. If they died, the benefits automatically extended to their widows.
The director of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Stephen Sanders, represents miners applying for black lung benefits.
Obamacare benefits are more important than ever, he said.
“President Elect Trump promised people that he was going to restore mining jobs,” Sanders said. “I don’t think he thought about what the Affordable Care Act might mean to miners who are applying for black lung benefits.”
Linda Adams’ husband, Tony, died three years ago. She supported Trump in the presidential election.
“If Obamacare goes away we’re gonna be in a world of depression,” Adams said.
Adams devotes her life to helping other apply for benefits. She hopes the benefits will survive, even if Obamacare is abolished. She is her eye on Trump’s actions.
“If he doesn’t come across like he promised. He’s not going to be there next time. Not if I can help it,” she said.
Another widow, Patty Amburgey, depends on her benefits. She also counts on social security, and a small pension every month.
“It’s not a large amount but it’s enough to pay the bills,” Amburgey said.
Neil Yonts, a former coal miner, initially supported Hillary Clinton; however, he changed his mind and voted for Trump to bring jobs back. He now also fears Trump’s promise to kill Obamacare will end his black lung benefits.
“When they eliminate the Obamacare they may just eliminate all the black lung program. It may all be gone,” he said. “Don’t matter how many years you got.”
Part of Trump’s first one hundred day agenda includes repealing and replacing Obamacare.