Carmichael: Tax increases popular suggestions at PEIA fix public hearings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The public outreach subcommittee of the Public Employees Insurance Agency Task Force in charge of conducting public hearings on a proposed fix for the program will hold its last hearing Monday evening at the state Culture Center in Charleston.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson

State Senate President, subcommittee member, Mitch Carmichael has crisscrossed the state with other members conducting nearly two dozen public hearings.

Carmichael said at many of those hearings, state workers have proposed ways to pay for the increasing cost of health care through PEIA.

“There are some who offer suggestions and many of the suggestions have centered around raising taxes on the people of West Virginia or on corporations, businesses, job creators,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael said during the Beckley public hearing the subcommittee heard suggestions that there should be no co-pay or any deductible.

“So essentially (they said) it should be free,” Carmichael said. “Most of the people in West Virginia realize we all have to contribute to our health care costs.”

More than 200 people attended the public hearing last Friday night in Morgantown. Annette Santilli, the administrator of the Barbour County Health Department, spoke about high insurance costs and communications issues in making sure people have access. She began her remarks by sharing a social media post from a friend.

“‘We pay out the rear for medical coverage for your family and still pay out the rear for co-pays and deductibles,'” Santilli read aloud. “‘It’s a shame I have to ask myself twice if I really do need to go to the doctor or have tests run for fear of making another bill.'”

Santilli called for a tax increase to meet the rising cost.

“The legislature needs to enact at least a $1 increase on a pack of cigarettes and to increase the tax substantially for other tobacco products as well,” she suggested.

Carmichael said all of the comments will be considered.

“It’s good for people to have an opportunity, as well as legislators and the task force to hear from the people about how they feel about the program and what their thoughts and suggestions are,” he said.

The creation of the PEIA Task Force was a key ingredient in the ending of the nine-day strike by education workers earlier this year.

The public outreach subcommittee will relay the feedback received at these meetings to the larger task force, which Gov. Jim Justice established to find a long-term solution to the issues facing PEIA.

Those who wish to submit feedback online can do so at Meetings are also streamed and archived at that site.

Those who wish to receive updates on social media can follow the WV PEIA Task Force Facebook page and @WVPEIATaskForce Twitter account.

Monday evening’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30.

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