WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With the dangers coronavirus brings for people with existing lung issues, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is concerned about the country’s coal miners.
“These are some of the hardest-working people. They’ve given their life based on their patriotic duty, providing energy to the country as needed,” Manchin said.
Both Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito are working to ensure the black lung clinics many miners rely on for care remain open.
Black Lung Disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, impairs a person’s ability to breathe due to exposure to coal dust causing scarring the lungs.
“These are critical healthcare facilities for our state,” Capito said.
“They’re going to be able to stay operational, too,” Manchin said.
Capito says telehealth should be another good way to care for black lung patients, but there’s an issue holding them back.
“The problem we have is we don’t have the connectivity in a lot of areas to be able to serve this. So we’re also trying to get audio calls where the doctor can call you at your home,” Capito said.
Manchin is asking the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services for guidelines on the best ways to keep the black lung programs running.
“Get that to our black lung clinics so they can be maintained and stay in business,” Manchin said.
Manchin says answers about how the clinics should operate during the emergency and how miners’ benefits will be protected will resolve a lot of the current uncertainty.
Both senators say the work of the clinics is too critical to be overlooked during the crisis.