CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — Public Employees rallied Tuesday ahead of a P.E.I.A. public hearing with some like Krista Antis advocating for her family.
“When he gets sick it can be much more dangerous than a normal kid,” Antis said of her disabled son Davis, “I’ve spent a lot of days in the hospital. A lot of nights in the hospital with him.”
Davis, she said, requires constant care and, as an eighth-grade teacher, if Antis gets priced out of affordable healthcare she would be out of luck.
“I would be back home with my parents on public assistance,” she said, “hopefully I’d still be teaching because I love my job.”
That’s why she joined thousands of public employees striking in February 2018 demanding higher pay and a significant overhaul of P.E.I.A. benefits.
At Tuesday’s public hearing, one of the last before the finance board finalized 2019-2020 year plans, they laid out the options available to recipients.
“I think a lot of what we’re hearing at the public hearings is fairly positive,” Mary Jane Pickens, Chairman of the P.E.I.A. Finance Board, said.
Pickens said there are no premium increases coming, and only one topic is up in the air before Thursday’s vote.
They could either vote to adopt Governor Jim Justice’s proposal to limit out of state 80/20 coverage to border counties covering outlying areas at 70/30, or go with Justice’s appointed P.E.I.A. Task Force proposal expanding 80/20 coverage to medical care across the country.
“You wouldn’t be limited to border counties,” Pickens said, “you could go anywhere.”
The nationwide plan would cost the state around 6.2 million dollars more annually.
Cost of the program was one of the employees biggest sticking points because the program doesn’t have a dedicated funding source.
“You’re going to have to add some more revenue at some point,” W.V.E.A. President Dale Lee said, “you know that.”
The board has no control over their funding.
If the legislature approves Justice’s proposed 100 million dollar P.E.I.A. allocation, it would only cover the program through June 2020.
Antis said they need dedicated funding so employees don’t have to worry about increases or making another stand.
“Those people are still out there,” she said, “they’re still paying attention.”
The P.E.I.A. Finance Board is set to vote Thursday on the final plan.