Several WV coal companies have apparently changed their mind about cutting health benefits to their retirees if they had not signed up for the new Medicare prescription drug program by January 1, according to UMW president Cecil Roberts.

Some coal companies had sent letters to retirees earlier saying that if they did not select a Medicare Part D prescription drug program before year's end, they would lose their company benefits.

Roberts says the union has reached an understanding with Peabody Energy, Consol Energy, Arch Coal and Bluestone Coal regarding enrollment and coverage of Medicare-eligible retirees and their spouses.

West Virginia's 348,000 Medicare beneficiaries have until May 15th to choose from about 57 plans.

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