A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have introduced a provision that aims to boost participation in black lung detection programs.
Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner introduced the amendment Wednesday into the defense, labor, health and education spending package that is being debated on the Senate floor.
If passed, the provision would require the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH to create a report for Congress within 180 days detailing how to increase participation in black lung screening programs.
The report would specifically focus on NIOSH’s Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, which offers free black lung screenings. Currently, only 35 percent of active miners participate and the percentage of retired miners is even lower.
The report would also aim to identify what barriers deter coal miners with black lung from getting treatment. The amendment does not provide any new funds for the report, but instead directs the agency to use money already appropriated by Congress.
The amendment comes at a time when cases of black lung are at a 25-year high, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
In a statement, Warner said improving outreach efforts would help more miners get screened.
“Black lung is a deadly disease, but the earlier it’s detected, the better the outcomes are,” he said.
A bipartisan group of six lawmakers co-sponsored the amendment, all hailing from Appalachia. They include Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).