Kentucky Curbs Black Lung Claims Amid 'Epidemic'

State says only certain doctors can diagnose the disease
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2018 12:10 PM CDT
Updated Apr 1, 2018 12:44 PM CDT
Kentucky Curbs Black Lung Claims Amid 'Epidemic'
An old picture is seen in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, during a Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety hearing on "Coal Miners' Struggle for Justice: How Unethical Legal and Medical Practices Stack the Deck Against Black Lung Claimants."   (AP Photo)

Kentucky miners with possible black lung disease, bad news—you may have less chance of getting state compensation, NPR reports. That's because Kentucky lawmakers just passed House Bill 2, which keeps federally approved radiologists from diagnosing the disease and leaves it mostly to doctors often employed by coal companies. "Throughout the United States, I know of nowhere where radiologists are taken completely out of the evaluation for potential black lung disease," says Brandon Crum, a radiologist who's being excluded. "That's what we're primarily trained in." Kentucky will only allow its federally certified pulmonologists to read those X-rays; the state has six, four of whom are typically hired by coal companies, and one is partly retired.

Apparently radiologists tend to side with coal miners and diagnose them with black lung, while Kentucky's pulmonologists diagnose more conservatively. "Obviously we do not have a standardized process so we are trying to standardize it," says Rep. Adam Koenig, a Republican. But critics say House Bill 2 simply sides with coal companies as black lung is becoming more common. A recent study found that Central Appalachia is suffering from a historic cluster of the disease, which is caused by dust inhalation while coal mining, the Lexington Herald Leader reports. New rules are designed to limit permissible mine dust, but many miners worked in the bad old days and are getting sick now. "It's shocking and it shouldn’t be happening," says an author of the study. (More coal mining stories.)

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