Trump administration admits it used miners’ health care as a bargaining chip

Coal miners were just pawns in a larger game.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year during daily press briefing at the White House, in Washington, Thursday, March 16, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Thousands of coal miners’ were on the verge of losing their health care at the end of April. In total, 22,000 people, former miners’ and widows, relied on government funding for their health care because the companies they worked for went bankrupt. That funding had almost run dry.

The Trump administration, despite its professed affinity for the coal industry, withheld their support for the program during budget negotiations with Democrats. Many of the former miners have chronic lung disease and faced down a future where they did not know if they would be able to afford medical treatment.

At the White House press briefing on Tuesday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney admitted it was all just a game.

Trump supported extending funding for miners’ health all along, Mulvaney said. The administration simply pretended not to support it in order to “get something in return.”

Mulvaney didn’t specify exactly what he was able to extract from Democrats in exchange for supporting the miners’ health program. He was excited, at other points of the briefing, about more money for the military and funds to replace an existing border fence with another, higher, fence.

Negotiators ultimately agreed on a series of “customs user fees,” which are leveed on the processing of imports, that will keep the miners’ health care funded permanently.

Left unresolved was a related issue of miners’ pensions. The fund for miners’ pensions is headed toward insolvency but was not fixed in the current round on negotiations.

Perhaps that bargaining chip is being saved for another day.


Trump administration admits it used miners’ health care as a bargaining chip was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.