By: Jordan Nelson, Beckley Register-Herald
The Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) Finance Board hosted a public hearing Thursday in Beckley to provide insight to its participants on what the PEIA Task Force has been working toward in providing a fix to the insurance coverage plan.
Afterward, participants were able to voice their opinions on the matter, and many praised the work of the task force, but concerns were still voiced.
Executive Director of PEIA Ted Cheatham told the audience the recommendations Gov. Jim Justice provided to the PEIA Task Force. These recommendations included:
• Plan A back to 80/20 coinsurance for approved services in West Virginia external bordering counties only
• Plan B back to 70/30 coinsurance for approved services in West Virginia external bordering counties only
• Remove facility fee limits
• Remove $25 copay for out-of-state services
• Add an appeal process for people requiring a third-tier nonpreferred drug to allow for reduced cost
During a PEIA Task Force meeting Monday, the group offered one change to Gov. Justice's recommendations, to change Plan A back to 80/20 coinsurance for approved services nationally, rather than just in bordering counties.
According to Cheatham, if this recommendation made by the PEIA Task Force were to go forward, there would be a $6.2 million increase to PEIA.
Audience member Michael McDonald, a Beckley resident, expressed to the PEIA Finance Board his frustration with the insurance plan. He said employees must be taken care of.
"They work hard," McDonald sad. "They need taken care of, but that just can't happen with this insurance."
John Quesenberry, a Raleigh County teacher and Raleigh County Education (RCEA) member, had a different approach when speaking to the board.
“Today I come with a thankful heart for the start that has been made. I'm very appreciative of the work you have done and that you are actually looking at wellness programs to try to lower costs and improve health,” Quesenberry said.
Quesenberry was referring to another recommendation made by Gov. Justice to look into more wellness programs and incentives for those under PEIA.
“Let us take forward and finish this work that has begun,” he said. “I would like to challenge each of you to be even more involved in this coming legislative session — to be an advocate and protect and promote the health care and wellbeing of employees.”
Quesenberry urged the board to also approve the recommendations made by the PEIA Task Force.
Deborah Elmore, a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), told the board she had a simple request when it comes to PEIA coverage — finding a funding source.
Elmore then turned around to address the delegates and senators in the audience.
"Please, delegates and senators, find us a funding source for this. These people (PEIA Finance Board) can't do their job without you all finding a funding source. Please, please find us a funding source," Elmore said.
During Monday's meeting with the PEIA Task Force, a source of funding was a hot topic.
To administer PEIA, the cost is about $1 billion, and officials have said there is an estimated annual 5 percent increase in health care costs, which amounts to $50 million each year.
Elmore talked of an increase in the severance tax on natural gas while addressing the board but said, ultimately, it is up to legislators.
The PEIA Finance Board is set to meet Thursday, Dec. 20. It will be up to the Finance Board to go through with the recommendations of the PEIA Task Force.