Public employees call for funding to PEIA plan, not freeze

Employees gather for the first of three public hearings by the Public Employees Insurance Agency finance board. It was a packed house Monday with many showing up to have their concerns heard and questions answered. (WCHS/WVAH)

The first of three public hearings by the Public Employees Insurance Agency finance board wrapped up Monday night, and it was a packed house with many showing up to have their concerns heard and questions answered.

Many who spoke pushed for the current insurance plan not to be frozen as West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice proposed but instead, to be fully funded.

"State workers are the backbone of the state and we need to be a priority,” Network EngineerJohn Dodds said.

Many pushed the same idea, saying freezing the current plan would not help public employees.

"We have to have a long-term funding stream, and everyone knows in this room that this freeze is not a fix,” American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Christine Campbell said.

Some called the proposed reduced premiums for families with dual state incomes unfair, and others gave examples of simple health needs being unaffordable.

"You're talking to public employees who don't make hardly anything, and they stay because this is home. This is home," Boone County teacher Carrena Rouse said. "You're going to show them the door. You've got teachers who are fully qualified and want to teach, but they're going to go to any other state that takes care of them insurance-wise."

The PEIA finance board will consider action on this proposal on Feb. 20. Executive DirectorTed Cheatham said while there are many things to consider, the changes to the $29 million plan the crowd is pushing for won't be immediately possible.

“I heard what they want in the future. I heard, ‘Don't bring total family income up again’ for example, I heard, 'Watch out for the drug expenses,' so I take that for the future,” Cheatham said.

Following the hearing Monday night, there will be another chance to voice your concerns Tuesday in Morgantown and Wednesday night in Beckley.

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