PEIA hearing in Charleston sees large disgruntled crowd

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PEIA hearing in Charleston sees large disgruntled crowd
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Public Employee’s Insurance Agency’s public hearing at Charleston Civic Center saw a large crowd Tuesday night, as members came out to express their disapproval with the agency’s plan to raise insurance deductibles.

In a $120 million hole, the PEIA is proposing a $500 increase for workers on an individual plan and $1,000 for those with a family plan. Out-of-pocket maximums will increase $1,500 for single and $3,000 for a family.

“Right now we’re barely managing some of our medical bills. They come at us every month with my daughter’s (health) condition,” said Putnam County teacher Rachelle Williams who spoke tearfully of her struggle at the hearing. “If the rates were to increase the way that they talk about, we could potentially have to move. Right now the cuts that they’re proposing will financially destroy us.”

Teachers and retirees in the program made up a large portion of the crowd. Brian Lauck from Logan County Middle School said he comes from a family of teachers who say he should leave the state.

“I have family members who are teachers; about 15 of them. They all said I was an idiot for coming to West Virginia because of the pay, and because the insurance prices going up is going to affect that further,” Lauck said.

Retired college professor Joe Badgley had a few suggestions for taxes that could help fund the PEIA, which he presented during his speech.

“A modest increase in the tobacco tax would keep the merchants in West Virginia competitive with their contiguous states and bring in millions of dollars to fund PEIA,” he explained. “Increasing the pop tax that was initiated in 1951 would bring in a significant amount of revenue that should be dedicated to fund PEIA.”

Joe White, Executive Director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, said the legislature needs to make more a commitment to fund the PEIA.

“It is the legislature’s responsibility to make sure that PEIA is funded,” he said. “They can find funding for just about anything else that they want to fund, and it is their job to fund that.”

The plan will be up for final approval before the finance board next month. Tuesday night’s hearing was the PEIA board’s fourth after meetings in Morgantown, Wheeling and Martinsburg.