CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia is expressing its concern about the proposed changes in the health insurance plan for state workers.

The Public Employees Insurance Agency began holding public hearings across the state this week–presenting the plan and listening to what employees have to say about it.

AFT-West Virginia President Christine Campbell said during an appearance Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline” there’s plenty not to like about it particularly collapsing 10 salary tiers that determine premium payments to three. Campbell said that means increased premiums for those earning less.

“It’s shifting the premium costs. So people who make more money are actually getting a break,” Campbell said.

PEIA premiums are based on how much a person makes. The higher the salary the higher the premium.

PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham said going from 10 tiers to three is for administrative purposes.

“It’s to ease this plan and make it easier to understand,” Cheatham said during an earlier appearance on “Talkline.”

Cheatham said PEIA’s actuaries tried to divvy up the salary groups into even thirds.

“It’s about 30 percent in one tier, 30 percent in the middle tier and 30 percent in the high tier,” Cheatham said.

Campbell said asking low-earning state workers to pay more by eliminating tiers is piling on.

“If you are more sick you’re going to pay more for your prescription drugs and your out-of-pocket max. If you have more children you are going to pay more. If your premiums have already gone up because of your tier–then we’re looking at multiple hits,” Campbell said.

Under the proposal, state employees would receive a premium increase of .5 percent. Retirees and non-state employees on PEIA would receive a 2 percent rate increase.

Another change would be to go to a 30 percent payment on preferred brand prescriptions, rather than a $25 or $30 co-pay.

All of the changes are going to make it even more difficult to recruit and retain teachers, according to Campbell.

“We can’t keep teachers in West Virginia now. We have thousands of vacancies for public employees. All of these things are driving people out,” she said. “What are we doing? What are we doing to attract and retain high quality people in West Virginia?”

PEIA presented the plan in Martinsburg Tuesday evening.

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