NPR

Kentucky Lawmakers Limit Black Lung Claims Reviews Despite Epidemic

There's a change in Kentucky law that puts diagnoses of the deadly coal miners' disease black lung mostly in the hands of physicians who typically work for coal companies.
Severe black lung disease deeply scarred the lung of a 61-year-old West Virginia coal miner, which was removed as part of a lung transplant. Source: Courtesy of NIOSH

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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR4 min read
Brad Pitt On Making 'Ad Astra,' Processing Trauma And Channeling David Bowie
The actor stars in a new science-fiction blockbuster about more than just an astronaut on a space mission: "We wanted to do something very sincere and raw and painfully honest," he says.
NPR5 min read
He's Trying To Fill In The Gaps On Google Street View — Starting With Zimbabwe
Not every corner of the world is yet on Google Street View. Tawanda Kanhema sees these gaps as a kind of digital divide, so he volunteers to photograph and upload some of the places left off the map.
NPR2 min read
Sunday Puzzle: Flipping R's To S's
Listener Richard McCurdy of Sherman Oaks, Calif., plays this week's puzzle with New York Times puzzlemaster Will Shortz.