CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice announced that the PEIA finance board will conduct public hearings on a proposal to reduce premiums for families that have dual state incomes, including teachers.
The Public Employees Insurance Agency’s finance board made a controversial decision early this year to adopt a total family income calculation for family coverage. The spouse’s income is counted in determining the insuree’s salary tier.
The change has been wrapped up in a variety of complaints by teachers, hundreds of whom are planning to rally Friday at the Capitol.
Complaints that a 1 percent pay raise proposed by Governor Justice isn’t adequate have received the most attention. But that’s been wound up with complaints that the raise doesn’t keep pace with healthcare costs.
“Again, I am aware and understand the challenges and the struggles our families are faced with and I’m going to continue to review and recommend policy changes to get PEIA premiums reduced wherever they can be,” Justice stated in a news release Thursday.
Under the latest proposed change, Justice said, families with more than one state employee will take their combined state income and divide it in half. About 5,120 state employees would be affected. The result will be a tier reclassification and premium reduction for those families, according to the administration.
Public hearings have been scheduled for Feb. 12 in Charleston, Feb. 13 in Morgantown and Feb. 14 in Beckley. The finance board will then meet on Feb. 20 to consider action on the proposal.
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said teachers organizations have been in recent discussions with the governor’s chief of staff.
“They listened to the plight, and this is a step to say ‘We hear you and some changes will be made,'” Lee said. “The devil’s in the details from here and to see really how we explore all of those details — not just the dual income but how we address people with second jobs and things like that too.”
Lee said he originally made such points during earlier public hearings as the PEIA finance board considered this year’s plan.
“They went ahead with this plan anyway, but there’s enough anger out there now that they see this is something that needs to be revisited,” Lee said.
House Speaker Tim Armstead issued a statement in support of the Governor’s announcement.
“We have heard loudly and clearly from our teachers and state employees that they are worried about the effects of these proposed PEIA changes, and have been actively exploring ways to offset costs,” said Armstead, R-Kanawha.
Armstead said the House Republican caucus has met with PEIA Director Ted Cheatham to discuss the concerns constituents have expressed.
“A particular concern has been how the changes will affect families where both spouses are public employees, so we’re relieved the Governor and PEIA Finance Board have recognized this and are taking action,” Armstead stated.