WSIL-TV -- Thousands of retired coal miners across the nation, including many in southern Illinois, are watching the clock tick down on their retirement benefits.

More than 22,000 retired miners are at risk of losing their health care benefits if Congress does not pass the Miners Protection Act by the end of the month.

"They lose their health insurance, it's terrible. That's why I'm fighting so hard for it," says Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois' 12th District.

Congressman Bost is leading the push for the bill's passage. He says there are more of these affected miners in his congressional district than any district in the nation.

Bost claims mining companies intentionally created other businesses and shifted union members to those companies before declaring bankruptcy.

"In bankruptcy they can walk away from that union obligation," Bost says. "That was never the intent of the law."

The Miners Protection Act of 2017 would take interest generated from the Mine Reclamation Fund and use that money to fund health care for retired workers whose benefits are set to expire.

"What we propose to do," Bost explains, "is take that interest and use that to pay out the pensions of the United Mine Workers that have fell by the wayside, and like I said, it's a minimal amount."

Bost says by using that interest, there will be no added financial burden on tax payers.

There is opposition to the plan from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who argue the government should not be bailing out companies over bad business decisions.

Still, Congressman Bost says he has the assurance of Speaker Paul Ryan that something will be done by the end of the month to protect those miners.

"We're not talking 25-year-olds here," says Bost. "These are seniors. They've already retired."

Congress is expected to address the issue as part of a continuing resolution that must be approved by the end of the month to fund federal government operations set to begin May 1.