CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It doesn’t look like the health insurance program for state workers is going to pay for fitness club memberships any time soon.

Public Employee Insurance Agency Director Ted Cheatham told state lawmakers last week the agency has several agency wellness initiatives under consideration but paying for a membership to a gym isn’t one of them.

Cheatham said it has to do with how PEIA is structured and considered by the IRS.

“Technically offering a fitness benefit is a taxable event,” Cheatham said. “So anything we would give you towards a fitness membership is a taxable event.”

Cheatham said PEIA is working on other wellness issues like forming a plan that would award points to members who take better care of themselves.

“We’re looking strongly at that. Points for logging food, points for exercising, points for having blood pressure and cholesterol in the right levels.”

Cheatham didn’t totally rule out the gym membership possibility sometime in the future but it’s not currently anticipated. He told lawmakers he’s not sure offering the benefit would mean more people would work out.

“We also believe that if we did a fitness membership 70 or 80 percent of the people who take it would be the people who are working out anyway and have their own fitness membership, but it’s not off the table by any stretch,” Cheatham said.


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  • JustSomeFacts

    PEIA does not offer global coverage or reimbursement on a gym membership for all their insured members, but does provide a program to assist those who are high risk (i.e. high BMI score, waist measurement). The link is here...

    Some of this comments following the article are really ignorant and misinformed. Please get a clue...

    • JustSomeFacts

      *Some of THESE comments.... Figured I'd correct my error myself, before getting called out on it.

      **Also should clarify the aforementioned program does have eligibility criteria and some people may not be eligible. Again, information about eligibility contained on link provided above...

  • Dave, just Dave.

    No worries, I'm sure Obama will wake up one morning and decide gym memberships should be covered by all health insurance plans sold in the USA.

    • sam

      here we go, what next, no rx plan, deductables will be increased but insurance will raise. I hate those stupid people in charge. We need to revamp the whole system in west virginia... starting from the top. To kill a poisonious snake you have to chop its head off not the tail...

  • WVWorker

    Government employees are not really taxpayers. They are being paid by the taxpayers and give a small percentage back in the form of a rebate.
    You can't pay you own salary.

    • JamieNitro

      WOW, I like you argument. Maybe I can use your explanation to get a pay raise. Just don't take taxes out of my income because I'm not REALLY a taxpayer in the first place.

      • WVWorker

        Where do you get your income. Are you paying your own wages?

        • JamieNitro

          Just because my wages are paid from money the state takes in from tax payers, does not make me a tax payer as well. I work at a job much like you, if my position wasn't of value it would not exist. To insinuate that I don't also pay into the tax system is a fabrication.

          • WVWorker

            There are very few state or federal government jobs that the taxpayers would pay for if given the option. I'm sure your job seems important in your mind but do you provide a service that people can not live without if given a choice. I know of no product that state workers produce so if you don't provide a service that is essential to the majority of the taxpayers you are basically a welfare receipient that has to show up at an office in order to get a check.

        • sam

          I work for dot but i think my taxes go to DHHR.

  • Rambling Wreck

    Ludicrus. That makes any healthcare or wellness benefit taxable, by their explanation.
    Liberalism at its finest. Can't pay for getting into shape. But will pay for charting and awarding points for BP checks. Wow. Now that makes me all warm and fuzzy.
    ObamaCare, get used to it.
    Even Forrest Gump knew, Stupid is as Stupid does.

  • Gilbert Gnarley

    Yes! Now I won't feel so guilty for not going...I have a valid excuse.

  • JamieNitro

    As a relatively new state employee, I do pay an insurance premium, just as I did in the private sector. In the private sector, I had a health plan that would reimburse me $150 towards my gym membership, provided I had a valid log that indicated that I was at the gym at least 120 times during the year. I was never subjected to tax issues.

  • jag

    The "more" your insurance offers you will only increase your premiums & deductibles. It is cheaper in the long run to pay for your gym membership your self.

  • The bookman

    Paying for individual health club memberships is not a function of PEIA or of state government...I'm not against agency driven wellness programs, as I've seen them operate effectively ...e.g. Biggest Loser campaigns, pedometer tracking competitions...having a gym membership does not equate to using a gym membership, and if you aren't paying for it, the likely hood of actually using it would decline...would make the local gym revenues increase, but doubt the state workforce would be any healthier!

  • Dale

    The State should offer stratigically located workout centers for their employees charging monthly fees to cover the cost to provide the equipment and maintenance. Offer discounts for documented physical improvements.

  • longbeards

    I think this is a good example of what WV Employes experence with PEIA! I have just had a major surgery on my leg, have a script for 6 months of PT that can be done at a much lower cost at our local Wellness Center,,,BUT PEIA will not cover it!

    • jag

      There is no way I would go to a local gym for therapy after a surgery. You need therapist's educated for physical therapy not the dopey people just working out 6 pack abs taking supplements & such

  • cynara

    Gotta love the social engineering Big-Brother-ism of "points for logging food", etc....

  • Kelly

    Why would taxpayer money be used for gym memberships for people alreadty having health insurance subsidized by the same taxpayers. When state employees do the same for private employees, ok the.

    Does this Cheatham guy understand where this money comes from?!

    • Harpers Ferry

      Probably because preventive health management (exercise) is MUCH cheaper than paying hospital fees for the majority of West Virginians who are fat and lazy.

    • susanf1218

      Umm, you DO realize that the public employees are also taxpayers?? So John Q. Taxpayer isn't paying for their insurance. Stop acting like public employees are on welfare.

      • The bookman


        If a state employee's wages are paid by taxpayers, wouldn't it follow that the tax payment portion of those wages would also have come from taxpayers...that's not welfare, and state workers do pay taxes on their wages like everyone else, but the funds actually come from taxes the state collects...

      • Kelly

        You are right Susan, they are not on welfare. So pay for your own damn membership at the gym. Private employees are now subsidizing peia insurance so premiums stay unchanged while ours rise. Again, when public employees subsidize private employees in kind I am all for it. When your pension fund performs poorly, taxpayer money is taken and added to make it whole again.

        • the truth

          Look, this "Gym" membership was only offered as part of a wellness program with strict guidelines. You had to meet several criteria to be in the program then verified that you were at this gym for at least two times a week.
          However, if I am not mistaken, The PEIA/EPA building has its own gym for employees. I have not seen this offered in any other state facility. Most of this stuff is a penny wise and pound foolish. Lets not pay preventive stuff and then pay more in the long run.

          • J.P.

            Actually it is the DEP not EPA building. DEP was able to come up with grants and donations to pay for equipment. PEIA moved into the building after the DEP had already paid for everything.

          • redgal

            The gym membership that is part of the PEIA Weight Management Program is not affected. The guidelines to participate are indeed strict. One must be in the "yellow" or "red" zones in the yearly screening evaluations to qualify. Meaning being overweight / high BMI, increased BP and/or cholesterol. You must also be accepted into the program and be compliant with minimum twice weekly gym attendance, meeting and showing progress with the weight loss and fitness evaluation goals, meetings with the nutritionist and health coach, and logging your food and exercise.Then, only half of your membership is covered at an approved facility. The program is for two years. I believe that the gym memberships being discussed here are just general memberships.

      • Desperate

        Actually, some state employees are on welfare because of extremely low wages.