Rockefeller bill aimed at diabetes care

WASHINGTON – Legislation making more residents eligible for preventive diabetes care also will save Medicare billions of dollars, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said.

The bill Rockefeller said he reintroduced will allow millions of beneficiaries to participate in the National Diabetes Prevention Program, a structured, 16-session program focusing on healthy eating and physical activity that has been shown to reduce the onset of type 2 diabetes in seniors at risk for the disease by 71 percent.

“Reducing diabetes in West Virginia is imperative,” Rockefeller said. “This bill would use a proven diabetes prevention program to help reduce the prevalence of this disease, and in many cases, help West Virginians avoid it altogether. It also saves billions of dollars as we try to reduce the federal deficit and it creates jobs by training more workers in the state to implement this program.”

Rockefeller was recognized by the YMCA for his leadership to prevent diabetes for seniors and low-income families, including his work on this bill, and was named a YMCA Congressional Champion.

The senator on Wednesday also introduced a bill that would protect promised pension and health care benefits for thousands of retired miners. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was a co-sponsor.

The Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act strengthens similar legislation Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., introduced in the last session of Congress. The bill comes after a discussion in Beckley with retired coal miners.

The 1974 pension plan by the United Mine Workers of America is underfunded and could become insolvent because of the 2008 financial crisis. The 1974 plan covers more than 100,000 mineworkers, including more than 35,000 West Virginians.

If the plan becomes insolvent, retirees could see reductions in their monthly pension checks, Rockefeller said.

In addition, Patriot Coal, a spinoff of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, is in bankruptcy proceedings, which could impact obligations to 12,000 retirees including 7,000 West Virginians who could lose their benefits. The 1974 pension plan would be further destabilized, Rockefeller said.

“A strong mining industry begins with a strong commitment to our miners,” Manchin said. “Our coal miners are some of the hardest working people in America, and they are proud to do the heavy lifting that keeps this country strong. They are the backbone behinds decades of lighting our cities and heating our homes, and deserve nothing less than the best possible benefits and care. This bill makes sure our brave coal miners receive the benefits they’ve been promised.”