CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The newly formed Public Employees Insurance Agency Task Force is scheduled to meet for the first time Tuesday to begin discussing a funding fix for the program.
Governor Jim Justice issued an executive order on Feb. 28 creating a task force to address the issues facing PEIA.
Thousands of teachers and school service personnel took part in a nine-day statewide strike to protest low wages and high health insurance costs.
The governor signed a bill last week giving teachers and all state employees a five percent raise; therefore ending the work stoppage. Educators returned to school last Wednesday.
Much of the teacher strike focused on the need to find a permanent funding solution for the agency. Teacher union leaders were on the front lines to put the pressure on lawmakers.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee and American Federation of Teachers West Virginia President Christine Campbell are part of the 29-member task force.
Lee said they’ll be exploring all options to fix PEIA.
“We believe that this task force needs to look at everything. We have to look at everything in order to help try to come up with solutions to the long term health plan that we have in West Virginia. We have to make it solvent, viable, affordable,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Campbell said the task force plans to collect public input.
“This task force will hold public hearings from input, so I think people can be comforted in knowing that holding pubic hearings is an opportunity for people,” she said.
The public hearings will allow them to identify problems within the agency, Lee said.
“We hear them a lot, but you will hear more when you go out in the field and have the public hearings. You don’t promise things there. You write everything down and make sure that those problems are addressed as we go through this process,” he said.
The governor named the task force Thursday which includes people from the business, education, labor and legislative fields. Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) and House Finance Chair Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha) also serve as members.
The task force originally had two women on it. Justice upped it to six women after receiving concerns from Democratic lawmakers.
Campbell said she’s looking forward to working with people from all different fields to resolve the issue.
“Any time you can bring the participants, the representatives and the experts together, you have a much better chance of finding a solution that is going to make a difference,” she said.
The PEIA Task Force meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Governor’s Cabinet Conference Room at the State Capitol.