CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board begins three nights of public hearings Monday in Charleston in connection with a proposed freezing of the provisions of the current year health insurance plan for state workers.
The request to freeze the plan is coming from Gov. Jim Justice and the House of Delegates in connection with concerns expressed by teachers and other state workers in recent months. The loudest of those concerns coming from teachers who have focused walkouts, walk-ins and informational picketing on PEIA.
The finance board approved the 2018-2019 plan at a meeting back in December. It’s provisions are scheduled to begin July 1. PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham said the new plan keeps the same program in place with a $29 million allocation from the state.
“He (the governor’s office) has provided an additional $29 million and we’ve adjusted the budget plan to reflect that additional $29 million in revenue so that’s what we’re going to take out to public hearings. That would really result in no change from where we are today,” Cheatham told MetroNews.
State workers faced premium increases in the new plan with decisions by the finance board to reduce the number of salary tiers and base some premiums on total family income. The Go365 plan has also been controversial.
In a Jan. 29 news release, Gov. Jim Justice called for the penalties to be dropped from the Go365. The premium penalty was $25 a month for those who don’t earn a minimum number of points.
“We needed to get the $25 per month penalty removed,” Justice said. “I understand the challenges our families are struggling with today and this was the right thing to do.”
A few days later, Justice and House Speaker Tim Armstead said the total family income provision should be revisited.
“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,” Armstead said.
But since then Justice and Armstead come out in favor of freezing the current PEIA plan for 17 months while a long-term fix for PEIA can be found. The House passed a resolution urging the freeze. The PEIA Finance Board will meeting Feb. 20 to consider the comments from the public hearing and take a vote on the freeze request.
Cheatham said he doesn’t know how much interest this week’s public hearings will draw in Charleston, Morgantown and Beckley.
“PEIA is staying steady for another year–so I don’t know if they are going to have much to say about PEIA, except to ask the board to go out and seek a long-term funding solution,” Cheatham said.
PEIA released the following information about the hearings:
Monday, February 12, 2018 — Charleston
University of Charleston,
Geary Student Union Ballroom,
2300 MacCorkle Ave., SE
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 — Morgantown
West Virginia University
The Erickson Alumni Center
One Alumni Drive
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 — Beckley
Tamarack Conference Center,
One Tamarack Place
Hearings will be held from 6 – 8 p.m. in each location. Registration will begin at 5:30. Those requesting to speak at the hearing must indicate that at registration. Speakers will be limited to 5 minutes each and comments are required to stay on the topic of the public hearing.