A local branch of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in Matewan is sponsoring the state legislation (SB 527), which would set up the state program and provide benefits to miners found to have black lung. UMWA officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the existing federal program, under which 80% of funds go to doctors, attorneys, and bureaucrats, they claimed in the article.
The federal black lung program requires that miners prove black lung has rendered them totally disabled. Under the West Virginia legislation, the state program would assume that miners have black lung after 10 years of exposure.
In neighboring Kentucky, the issue has been embroiled in controversy after state legislators passed a law that stripped radiologists of the ability to participate in the federal B-reader program to interpret black lung x-ray exams. The move was widely seen as favoring pulmonologists, whose interpretations are generally more favorable to mining companies.
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