It’s yet another blow to the coal industry.
Coal mining is back breaking work, Hurt knees and backs are common. Workers are underground for hours at a time, which takes a toll.
When these miners leave the industry, they rely on insurance benefits, including John Cook.
“I gave my heart and soul to the company, I stayed back, I would come in early,” Cook said.
Cook worked as a miner with Alpha Natural Resources for eight hard years until he says he was laid off in February.
“We was told then to sign up on unemployment and that the state offered what they called ‘West Virginia Roads’ which was medicaid for your families, so I had no insurance, no dental, no vision, no health care,” he said.
Now Cook has a Medical card from the state to help pay for doctor visits, but it comes at a price.
“You have to watch what you have to get yourself into or they will take your card away,” he said.
Fast forward six months, miners with Alpha are without benefits.
According to a spokesman with Alpha, there is a group of non-union retirees and a group of union represented retirees who will no longer be covered by a company plan effective August first.
To help fund his family, Cook is moving past the mines to pursue an education.
“Either going to get into a two-year medical class that’ll start in August and then in October take a CDL A class,” Cook said.