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Miners Receive Unique Health Care Option

WY Insurance Department
The State of Wyoming Insurance Department

Former Blackjewel miners can now obtain a retroactive health insurance plan from the federal government. That means if a worker applies now for federal health insurance, it can count towards treatment starting September 1.

On August 31, Blackjewel terminated health insurance plans for hundreds of furloughed coal miners after filing for bankruptcy earlier this summer.

Granting retroactive coverage is not normal. Typically, healthcare loss is met with a 60-day period where workers can apply for Affordable Care Act coverage, but Wyoming's Department of Insurance said not every Blackjewel employee knew about that option due to the erratic nature of the bankruptcy.

Denise Burke, senior policy and planning analyst with the Wyoming Department of Insurance, said it took some convincing, but eventually the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) agreed with them.

"There's just been so many variances in this thing that they felt like the exceptional circumstances were actually the lack of notice to the miners of when their health benefits would end," said Burke.

Former Blackjewel employees have until October 30 to enroll in marketplace coverage. If you applied tomorrow up until the end of October, there's an option to have new coverage pay for old treatment. Burke said that was particularly important for certain former employees who were in dire need of healthcare, but lacked insurance over the course of September.

"One of the main things we are trying to do is to make sure that that those individuals who have serious medical conditions or ongoing treatments… that they have an option," Burke said.

The full document instructing how to apply can be found here. It alerts enrollees that they could have to provide confirmation of lost coverage from Blackjewel. Burke also warned the premium cost could be jarring to workers who are used to employee coverage.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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