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6/13/2005

UMWA reaches agreement with BCOA to provide additional funding for 1993 Benefit Fund

Source: UMWA

Health care benefits for 1993 Plan retirees, spouses to remain at current levels through end of 2005

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts announced today that an agreement has been reached between the UMWA and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA) that would provide enough funding for the UMWA 1993 Benefit Fund to provide benefits at current levels through the end of this year.

"This is good news for our retirees who are covered by the UMWA 1993 Benefit Fund," said President Roberts. "Their health care benefits were on the brink of being drastically reduced in the very near future. With this agreement, we've been able to extend the time they have full benefits through the end of the year, which will give us more time to work through legislative solutions that would solve the funding problem for this fund on a more permanent basis."

Under the agreement, UMWA 1993 Benefit Fund (1993 Fund) beneficiaries will receive a one-time hardship payment of $3,350 from the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund. The beneficiaries would then be assessed a $3,000 premium by the 1993 Fund. The UMWA estimates that a total of $10 million in premiums will be paid to the 1993 Fund under this agreement.

Unlike the UMWA Combined Benefit Fund (CBF)-which is funded through premiums paid by coal operators and by transfers of interest money from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund (AML Fund)-the 1993 Fund is financed solely by a contribution from the coal operators of 50 cents per hour worked by a UMWA miner. Due to the skyrocketing costs of health care and an unanticipated rise in the number of beneficiaries covered by the 1993 Fund, the Fund's net assets have been dropping quickly, which would have likely led to cuts in benefits for 1993 Fund beneficiaries this summer.

"This hardship payment is just a short-term fix to a problem that needs a long-term solution," Roberts said. "The best and most permanent solution is to be found in Congress. The 1993 Fund beneficiaries are no different from the beneficiaries of the CBF and the 1992 Fund. They've given their lives and their health to energizing America, and they have every right to expect that the promise Harry Truman made to America's coal miners of health care after they retire should extend to them.

"The only reason that promise-reaffirmed by the administration of President George H.W. Bush-doesn't extend to the miners who are in the 1993 Fund is because Congress picked an arbitrary date for Coal Act eligibility when it passed the Coal Act back in 1992," Roberts said. "Congress must act-and act quickly-to fulfill America's promise to its coal miners."

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