September 01,2000

Committee to Mark Up Coal Miner's Retirement Fund Legislation September 7

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today announced, the Committee will mark up the "Coal Miner and Widows Health Protection Act," legislation that would ensure funding for the United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefit Fund.

The mark up will take place on Thursday September 7, 2000 in 215 Dirksen Senate Office building immediately following the 10:00 am mark up of the Retirement Security and Savings Act.


The Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefits Act of 1992 (the Coal Act) was enacted to provide lifetime health and death benefits through the Fund to retired miners (and their dependents) who were covered by two previously existing funds.

Under the Coal Act, coal companies and in some case, successor companies were required to pay yearly premiums on beneficiaries assigned to them. The Social Security Administration (SSA) was instructed to assign retired miners and dependents to responsible companies before October 1, 1993. In addition, there was a transfer of $210 million from the 1950 Pension Trust Fund to provide initial funding of the Fund.

Interest from fees in the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund (the AML Fund) is required to be transferred to the Fund annually in order to defray medical premiums of those beneficiaries who could not be assigned to an employing coal company. However, the maximum amount that can be transferred is the amount of interest for the year and all interest earned on the fund since 1992. If the AML Fund transfers are not enough to defray the costs of the unassigned beneficiaries, then the premiums paid by the companies paying premiums to assigned miners will have to be increased.

The Combined Benefit Fund is currently nearing insolvency. The Fund is expected to have a positive fund balance of $1 million on September 30, 2000. Last year, it came out of insolvency due to a transfer of $68 million to the fund from interest on the AML Fund.

An actuarial projection of the Fund dated April 10, 2000, predicts an accumulated deficit of approximately $56 million in the Fund by the end of fiscal year 2001 (exclusive of borrowing costs). In addition, the Fund will have an accumulated deficit of approximately $513 million by the end of fiscal year 2008 (exclusive of borrowing costs).

Legislation being marked up by the Committee on Thursday would ensure the solvency of the United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefit Fund, which provides health benefits for certain retired mine workers and their dependents.

According to the General Accounting Office, as of June 30, 1999 there are approximately 67,000 beneficiaries. Seventy-two percent are women and more than 60% live in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.