Public workers want PEIA 'fixed,' not 'frozen'

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Public workers want PEIA 'fixed,' not 'frozen'
By Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail

The roughly 350-person audience at Monday’s Public Employees Insurance Agency health coverage hearing made clear it wasn’t satisfied with the governor’s current proposal to provide enough additional PEIA funding to stop previously approved benefit cuts from taking effect next fiscal year.

“Fix it, don’t freeze it,” Fred Albert, president of Kanawha County’s arm of the American Federation of Teachers union, told the PEIA Finance Board. “A freeze is not going to help us, we need a long-term program that is a real benefit to our employees.”

Albert was referencing Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to “freeze,” for one year PEIA premiums and other aspects of the coverage as they currently exist.

PEIA Director Ted Cheatham said the PEIA Finance Board approved the maligned changes Dec. 7, to take effect July 1 for active employees, but Justice has since suggested lawmakers provide enough extra money in next fiscal year’s budget to avoid the changes, and the Finance Board may vote next week retract the changes.

Public school employees are currently discussing the possibility of a statewide strike, and employees in several county school systems have already shut down schools with one-day work stoppages. PEIA cuts are a common concern.

As for long-term funding needs, Cheatham said that due to medical inflation, about $50-$70 million more is needed each year “to keep the plan as is.”

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