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9/15/2005

Health care fund for retired miners bailed out

A financially troubled program that provides prescription drug benefits to 55-thousand retired coal miners and miners' widows has received a $200 million-dollar federal bailout.The Department of Health and Human Services will continue to offer benefits to mining families in Virginia and other coal-producing states through an extension of a Medicare drug program.

Under the agreement, the Department of Health and Human Services will increase its Medicare reimbursement to the United Mine Workers Association Health and Retirement Funds by an additional $100 million dollars in each of the next two years. The funds were created by the 1992 Coal Act.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd said the announcement provides relief to thousands of miners but it is only a short-term solution to a looming financial crisis confronting the union's health care funds.

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