MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — State employees have expressed concern over the proposed changes to the Public Employee Insurance Agency’s benefits.
In the aftermath of proposed changes under the PEIA that include an increase in benefit premiums and a change in costs for prescriptions, employees from various sectors spoke to the PEIA’s finance board during a meeting on Monday about how the proposed changes could impact their lives.
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, thought their emotions were heard loud and clear.
“People are angry,” Lee said. “When you are looking at continued cuts in our insurance benefits, in a time when no one else is getting raises in the state and they’re taking more and more away.”
The proposed changes include a premium increase of .5 percent for state employees, that would increase 2 percent for retirees. It also includes a cost change for prescription medicine of a 30 percent payment on brand prescriptions, instead of the $25 or $30 copay that was previously used.
The changes took place despite getting an extra $10 million in state support, a move that, according to the PEIA Finance Board, avoided premium increases of over two percent for state employees and other potential changes.
Lee says of all the increases, the costs for prescriptions will affect people the most.
“I don’t know how people are going to be able to do that, particularly those who are diabetics and have the insulin that’s not the generic,” he said. “There’s no appeals process, there’s no way to say, ‘No, my doctor says I can’t take this’ — That’s just wrong to do people like that.”
Along with members of the educational system, members of the correctional system were among the over 35 employees and retirees that spoke about the changes and how they can and will be affected if the changes are implemented. Most concerns expressed were in regards to choice purchasing for retirees to being unable to bring in positions due to the lack of benefits.
Lee says something has to be done on a state level in order for things to be corrected.
“What I hope is that the finance board will do two things,” he said “One, they will go back and say, ‘This is not a good plan. We gotta come up with something different.’
“Secondly, to join with the people, to join with us, to go with the legislature and say ‘The Governor put $10 million in there, we need to put additional dollars in,'” he said.
Five members of the West Virginia House of Delegates attended the meeting, including Monongalia County Delegates John Williams, Rodney Pyles and Barbara Evans Fleischauer. There was also a mention of a decline in those who attended the public hearing in comparison to last year in which after the hearing, Lee encouraged those who could go to do so.
“It’s important that people get out and have their voices heard,” he said “I know many times it feels like it’s falling on deaf ears, but in my years of doing this, changes have been made.”
The next hearings are scheduled for Nov. 14 in Beckley and Nov. 15 in Charleston.