COSHOCTON -- A representative of mine workers in this region has joined a U.S. senator in urging congress and the administration to adopt permanent appropriations -- a budget bill -- that also resolves the health care issue.
Once again, federal elected officials are approaching a deadline to adopt a budget before the government faces the prospect of shutting down. As of Wednesday, a continuing resolution passed in December is slated to expire after Friday, April 28.
A component of the budget that, arguably, has created the biggest obstacle to passage of the bill is health care. Many, including the president, have lobbied for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
That eventuality has spurred Norm Skinner to join Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Mansfield, in urging passage of the budget with health care included and to resolve the matter once and for all. Skinner, a retired coal miner from Dresden, serves as president of United Mine Workers of America, Local 1188.
He said many miners and retired miners have received letters periodically, warning that they are about to lose health care benefits.
"I wish (the public) could attend one of our meetings and see how stressful it is to get letters saying (health care) would be part of a continuing resolution," Skinner said.
He said that many miners are 60 years old or older -- just about the age when many people begin experiencing health problems.
Skinner said miners faced not only hazards inherent in mining but also in many practices associated with the industry, such as washing machinery parts in a solvent later determined to be carcinogenic.
"We had people come in in hazmat suits to remove it," he said. "We've had many of our people dying of cancer."
Skinner himself is slated to begin radiation treatments on Friday, the last day of the continuing resolution currently in place.
Senator Brown praised Skinner's dedication to seeking what he believes to be right.
"Even in the midst of his illness, he's been here, fighting not just for [miners], but for all of Southeast Ohio," Brown said.
Elimination of the Affordable Care Act poses a threat for rural hospitals and, indeed, for people across the state and country, he said.
It's time to stop "kicking the can down the road," Brown said. "A permanent solution to health care (should be) part" of the budget.