Yesterday was the first day that 10,000 retirees at Weirton Steel will have health benefits.

Workers who have spent 20 to 40 years at the steel company, once the state's largest employer, have lost their coverage thought once to be "good as gold."

Weirton Steel, among other steel companies in the rust belt, has gone into bankruptcy. They say the primary problem is competing with cheap foreign imports under world trade agreements.

Several steel companies have also used their retirement funds to invest or keep operating, causing employee retirement benefits to go down the drain.

Paul Altomare, who has worked at Weirton Steel for 32-plus years, has a grim prediction. He believes some families may lose their life savings, some even their homes just trying to pay for insurance coverage until they're old enough to receive Medicare.

Family health insurance, according to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Parkersburg will cost over $16,000 by 2006.

Altomare says it's hard to believe that people who spent their lives looking forward to retirement may never get to enjoy it.