Senator Jay Rockefeller, along with Senator Joe Manchin and Congressman Nick Rahall, have repeated their call in opposition to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) changes to the Black Lung Clinics Grant Program that would unfairly burden West Virginians suffering from black lung disease. The three members of the West Virginia Congressional Delegation have been successful in securing additional time and technical assistance for the State's grant application process and have voiced their 100 percent support for the State's applications for funding.
"We need to do more to help miners who are suffering from this disease, not less," Rockefeller said. "West Virginia has among the highest rates of black lung disease in the nation, and miners throughout Appalachia deserve our absolute best efforts at providing the health care treatment they so badly need."
"Our coal miners have mined the coal that keeps our lights on, heats our homes and powers our businesses" Senator Manchin said. "Every single miner who suffers from black lung disease should receive the best medical care possible. It is essential that we find a long-term solution to this issue so that our eight black lung clinics around our great state will get the funding they need to treat their patients. I will continue to do everything I can at the federal level to make sure that all West Virginians suffering from black lung disease get the treatment and medical services they need."
"Senators Rockefeller and Manchin and I sprang into action when we learned about the change in the black lung grant application process. Our goal now is to continue pressing West Virginia's case to Federal officials to ensure that the needs of our black lung clinics and our miners get the full measure of assistance they deserve," said Rahall.
Rockefeller, Manchin, and Rahall have been in lengthy discussions with State and HHS officials about the black lung program since February. In a letter to Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Mary Wakefield last month, Rockefeller, Manchin, and Rahall expressed grave concerns about a change that would arbitrarily cap the funding available to each grant applicant at $900,000 -- significantly less than the $1.4 million in federal funds the State secured last year.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources administers grant funding for eight black lung clinics -- more than any other state -- and is proposing to add a ninth clinic to the program. The $900,000 cap would only directly affect West Virginia, since the State is the only grantee to have received more than $900,000 annually.