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PEIA hosts final hearing regarding benefit changes in Charleston

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PEIA hosts final hearing regarding benefit changes in Charleston
By MetroNews Staff

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Around 80 people attended a public hearing Wednesday at the University of Charleston to criticize proposed changes to health insurance benefits hosted by the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

The PEIA Finance Board listened to multiple public speakers, all of whom voiced opposition to the 2018-2018 benefits plan. The proposal includes a two-percent premium increase for non-state employees and retirees. There would also be a half-percent rate increase for active state employees, as well as consolidation of salary tiers from 10 to three and a “pay by person” rate addition for each family member added to a plan.

Pharmacy payments would change from $25 or $30 for a prescription to a 30 percent co-insurance payment for preferred brand drugs.

PEIA director Ted Cheatham said with Wednesday’s hearing, they have held four in-person events and one teleconference on the matter.

“I am trying to find a way to help them, maybe restructure this plan and get our actuaries to look at some other options,” he said. “We’ll tweak this, look at it and see what we can do.”

American Federation of Teachers of Boone County President Carrena Rouse said the changes would hurt low-income West Virginians, as those in the lower tier will be paying higher rates than they do currently. According to a PEIA presentation, an individual with a total family income between $20,001 and $36,000 “may have been paying too little” in the past.

“That to me is such a great wrong, that it makes me absolutely livid,” she said.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said in a state that is struggling to retain teachers because of stagnating salaries, this move would further hurt education.

“We have more and more vacancies and our service personnel are leaving. Now you’re cutting their benefits even more?” he said. “That’s just wrong.”

Cheatham said he will talk to the board about what they heard during the meetings which began Nov. 7, and structure new plans prior to a final vote on Dec. 7.