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The Party of the Working Class

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Voting for Republicans sure pays off for the Appalachian working class!

A measure signed into law in Kentucky this past week would prevent federally-certified radiologists from judging X-rays in state black lung compensation claims, leaving diagnoses of the disease mostly to physicians who typically work for coal companies.

The new law requires that only pulmonologists — doctors who specialize in the lungs and respiratory system — assess diagnostic black lung X-rays when state black lung claims are filed.

Up until now, radiologists, who work in evaluating all types of X-rays and other diagnostic images, had been allowed to diagnose the disease as well.

Just six pulmonologists in Kentucky have the federal certification to read black lung X-rays and four of them routinely are hired by coal companies or their insurers, according to an NPR review of federal black lung cases.

The two remaining pulmonologists have generally assessed X-rays on behalf of coal miners but one is semi-retired and his federal certification expires June 1.

Among the radiologists excluded by the law is Dr. Brandon Crum, who helped expose the biggest clusters ever documented of complicated black lung, the advanced stage of the fatal disease that strikes coal miners.

“I do believe the coal industry is writing this bill to exclude certain doctors that they don’t like,” said Phillip Wheeler, an attorney in Pikeville, Ky., who represents coal miners seeking state black lung benefits.

It would be nice if Kentucky residents realized just how hazardous Republicans are for their health, but then you look at election results from eastern Kentucky counties and you realize that Republicans may lead to black lungs, but they also support white skin and welp….

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