PEIA Holds Public Meeting, Proposed Benefit Cuts Have People Upset

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PEIA Holds Public Meeting, Proposed Benefit Cuts Have People Upset
Written by Ryan Petrovich

It was a jammed packed house for the Public Employees Insurance Agencies' Finance Board public meeting. Hundreds of people gathered to hear the proposed plans and voice their concerns. 

State law prevents PEIA from raising premiums for active employees, so deductibles will rise. It will be a $500 increase for a worker on an individual plan and $1,000 for those on a family plan. These deductibles were among the many concerns.

"Your family has to come first and the deductible's if the child get sick are extremely high," Jean Grant, of Harrison County said. "Coming back to your retirees -- when you have to decide whether or not you're going to buy your medicine or buy food, that's tragic."

The PEIA is looking to cut benefits by over $80 million for active employees and over $40 million for retirees. It would also increase premiums for retirees by eight percent and three percent for non-state public workers. Many of the people there pointed the fingers at legislators and the head honchos in Charleston, W. Va. 

"I think first and foremost we have to talk to the governor and tell him to write into his budget a way to fund PEIA, to benefit the state," said Sam Brunett, President of the Mon County American Federation of Teachers.

"I really do expect the Governor, the Senate President and the house speaker to make this happen," said David McQuain of Mon County Education Association. "Because it's very important they make this happen so they don't have serious problems in providing education for the future of West Virginia in our school."

There was also several legislators in in attendance, and one said he heard the crowd loud and clear. 

"The folks in this state must not lose the faith and not lose hope that we can come to a resolution," said Brian Kurcaba, (R) West Virginia House of Delegates. "It's going to be challenging and we're going to have to look at everything."

The director of the PEIA agreed with what most said, they need more money.

"We have to be better consumers of health and that's one thing," said Ted Cheatham. "We need to pay attention to what we're doing we have to get healthier and live better lifestyles. That's one thing. The other thing we need tod is probably put more money into this plan."