Miner's benefits, costing you?

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WDTV) - For quite some time now we've been telling you that thousands of retired coal miners and their families are set to lose their benefits by the end of this month if Congress doesn't take action on the Miner's Protection Act.

Now a political science expert at West Virginia University says possible solutions could cost you.

Simon Haeder, an assistant professor in the WVU John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics and the Department of Political Science, says there's a possibility that certain solutions could cost taxpayers between $3 or $4 billion.

He says the costs can be hard to identify. The question is whether the federal government should guarantee both healthcare and pension benefits to miners or whether they should preserve healthcare benefits and allow the pension fund to run out.

Regardless, he says with the combination of healthcare and pensions, it's going to be costly.

"It depends on how you look at it," said Haeder. "What's undeniable is the combine cost of healthcare and pensions are going to be an excess of a few billion dollars. The exact numbers are always hard to predict. Obviously it could be $3 or $4 billion. That's kind of what the numbers are right now."

When we talked with an official from the United Mine Workers of America, he argued that the numbers are closer to the $3 billion mark. He cites the Congressional Budget office as his reasoning.

"The estimated cost for this when the Senate Finance Committee passed this legislation is at $2.9 billion," said Phil Smith Director of Communications and Governmental Affairs with the United Mine Workers of America. "That's still a lot of money, but it's still not anything close to what this gentleman is saying (in the release which cites $4 billion)."