Retired coal miners still face uncertain future for health-care benefits

John Leach has spent the holidays wondering how he’d come up with nearly $400 a month to pay for health insurance.

Leach worked in Peabody Energy coal mines in western Kentucky for 23 years and, like all miners who belonged to the United Mine Workers of America, thought he was guaranteed a health care plan that would cover his family for life.

It was part of a pact made 70 years ago by President Harry S Truman, the union and the coal companies, and coal miners and their families have counted on it every year since.

“I worked at four different mines,” Leach said. “I got that speech four different times.”

Then in October, Leach was one of 12,000 retired coal miners who received a notice that their health benefits would end on Dec. 31.

A congressional deal to fund health-care benefits for retired coal miners lasts only till April.

Congress reached a deal earlier this month to extend Leach’s benefits through the end of April. But until lawmakers can agree on a more permanent fix, Leach and his wife, Rhonda, who live in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, face losing their coverage in four months.

“At the end of four months, we will have to get her insurance,” he said. “It’s really expensive.”

Leach said one of them will have to find a job at an age when many couples are retired. But that creates other complications. They have two disabled adult children who live at home and require around-the-clock care.

“Who’s going to want to hire somebody who’s almost 70 years old?” Rhonda Leach said of her husband. “It’s a…

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