Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story about a black lung clinic in McMurray, Pennsylvania: Lungs at Work.
The reporter spoke with Lynda Glagola, the clinic’s director, as well as as a coal miner named Robert Long, and Bruce Watzman of the National Mining Association.
The article and the accompanying photos are well-done and worth a look: http://powersource.post-gazette.com/powersource/companies/2017/02/26/Amid-health-care-uncertainty-black-lung-clinic-provides-support-for-miners/stories/201702080001
The article connects the excellent work that Ms. Glagola and the rest of the Lungs at Work staff do with the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and the uncertainty about what is going to happen to the black lung improvements that are part of the ACA. Bruce Watzman of the National Mining Association is quoted about the coal industry’s criticisms of the black lung benefits program. The article says “The Washington D.C.-based trade group is pushing for an ‘overhaul’ of the benefits program, including a rollback of the ACA provision, he said.”
The coal miner’s story in the article should sound familiar to those of us who work with coal miners in black lung benefits claims:
Robert Long, who lives with an oxygen tank in Peters Township, Washington County, guessed he could have black lung shortly after retiring from Emerald Mine in Greene County in 2008. He worked for 35 years in the mines.
At first, he thought he could handle his claim on his own. He filled out the forms, gathered his work history and went to Lungs at Work to get his examination.
“My opinion was if you go through the process and you’re found to have lung issues, you’ll get the right outcome,” Mr. Long said.
Emerald Mine’s owner, Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources, stepped in to challenge Ms. Glagola’s diagnosis, sending Mr. Long to two doctors assigned by the company who found he was healthier. Ms. Glagola sent him to more doctors. With the help of the ACA provision, she said, Mr. Long was able to win his case after about four years.
About two years after that, Alpha Natural Resources declared bankruptcy, meaning the government’s black lung benefits fund picked up the tab. Mr. Long uses his black lung benefits card for health care related to his illness. His insurance pays for refills of his oxygen tank that run roughly $100 a month.
He’s relatively lucky: Depending on the severity of the condition, treatments range from respiratory inhalers to oxygen tanks to lung transplants — an operation costing tens of thousands dollars.
“It’s so important to come to places like this,” Mr. Long said. “It’s a shame there aren’t more like it.”
A couple months ago, another newspaper—the Observer-Reporter from Washington, Pennsylvania—also ran a similar story: http://www.observer-reporter.com/20161217/washington_woman_honored_for_her_work_helping_black_lung_disease_claimants#.WFaL3xg2JbY.email
Its nice to see Lungs at Work getting recognition for the excellent work that they do.