Teachers fight against PEIA increases

Teachers gather at the West Virginia Capitol. Many are fighting against proposed Public Employees Insurance Agency increases. (WCHS/WVAH)

Roane County visual arts teacher Sarah Duncan said her insurance premiums through the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency are expected to increase.

"These premium raises keep happening every year," Duncan said. "We feel like the Legislature is not doing enough to find funding for PEIA."

Duncan is just one of many teachers fighting against more increases. This year PEIA plans to group state workers into five categories based on total income. The agency hopes to access tax information about a state worker's second job, or a spouse's salary if the spouse is covered by PEIA. Insurance fees would be based on the family's total income.

"People are struggling," Duncan said. "When your insurance keeps going up every year and your pay isn't increasing, it makes it hard on a lot of people."

Duncan's husband, Richard Duncan, is the superintendent of Roane County Schools. He said it is a problem their family faces every year working for the public school system.

"The more we pressure our schools with fewer resources, fewer people and fewer benefits, the more we put pressure on our communities that are already struggling," Richard Duncan said.

PEIA is also introducing a wellness program called Go 365 to help decide premium and deductible amounts. The Duncans said it asks personal questions about your health and doctor's appointments. Some employees are finding it intrusive.

"It's a program we have to participate in," Sarah Duncan said. "If we don't, they will raise our deductible each month."

The changes are set to go into effect in July 2018. Co-pays also are going up. On Wednesday Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, said the 1 percent pay raise proposed by Gov. Jim Justice is a "slap in the face." In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Ojeda warned lawmakers that teachers and state workers are so fed up over this, they are talking about striking.

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