CHARLESTON, W.Va.-(WTAP, WSAZ, AP) UPDATE: 12/7/2018, 11:21 AM
Teachers are watching closely as a task force studying fixes to a health insurance program for West Virginia public employees prepares to finalize its recommendations.
American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Fred Albert told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that state officials made a promise and teachers want to see they keep it.
Gov. Jim Justice created the Public Employees Insurance Agency task force at the height of the statewide teachers' walkout in February.
The panel was charged with finding ways to reduce costs and improve benefits and to resolve ongoing funding shortfalls.
The full PEIA task force is scheduled to meet next Monday with the goal of giving recommendations to the Legislature by Tuesday.
A task force subcommittee has forwarded recommendations from Justice that would give employees in counties bordering other states greater flexibility for health care access.
Wood County Education Association President Bruce Boston is encouraged by the proposed lifting of out-of-state limits.
"Right now, there are only two counties that border West Virginia, where people cannot go across the boarder (for medical services) to those counties," Boston said. "Those are Boyd County, Kentucky and Washington County, Ohio. So this may allow people to go across the border to Marietta Memorial or other medical facilities."
Greg Merritt, of the Wood County Federation of Teachers, is pleased with the governor's proposals regarding wellness plans, and the appeal process involved with non-preferred medication.
Gov. Jim Justice sent a list of recommendations today to the Coverage and Plan Subcommittee of the West Virginia PEIA Task Force, which was created to find a permanent fix for funding the health insurance plan for state employees and retirees.
The Governor’s letter included the following recommendations:
•Move Plan A benefits back to 80/20 coinsurance in WV external bordering counties only
•Move Plan B benefits back to 70/30 coinsurance in WV external bordering counties only
•Remove facility fee limits from out of state facilities
•Remove $25 copay for out-of-state services
•Add an appeal process for people requiring a third-tier non-preferred drug to allow for reduced copays
•I asked the coverage committee to review the wellness plans to further incentivize our members to seek better health outcomes
Justice appointed a task force last spring to study the PEIA system after a nine-day teacher walkout, part of which was a protest of changes in the system proposed at that time.
UPDATE 6/21/18 @ 8:55 p.m.
West Virginia state employees won't have to worry about an increase to their insurance plan right now.
On Thursday, the Public Employee Insurance Agency task force approved a proposal by Governor Jim Justice to change the tier system before employees are impacted on July 1.
During the session this year, the legislature raised state employees pay by five percent. That is set to take effect on July 1. This would bump about 14,000 state employees to a higher insurance tier under PEIA.
On Monday, Governor Justice said he froze PEIA for a reason until they can figure out a long term solution. He didn't want people who got raises to then have to pay more for their insurance.
Now the PEIA task force has approved a measure to raise the tiers by $2,700. That will take effect on the same day as the pay raise.
PEIA is frozen until June 2019.
West Virginia state employees shouldn't have to worry about an increase in their insurance rates, thanks to a requested change in the tier system.
On Monday, Governor Jim Justice hosted a press conference with West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee to talk about the future of the Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA).
PEIA became a hot button issue last spring when thousands of teachers went on strike and protested at the state Capitol for higher salaries and better insurance. At that time, the state decided to freeze changes to the insurance plans until June 2019 so they could work on a long-term solution to the rising costs of the program.
Now, Governor Justice and Lee say they will be asking the PEIA Task Force, which was formed when the program was frozen, to raise the tiers used to determine PEIA rates.
They want to raise the tiers by $2,700 so that educators won't see an increase in their rates during the freeze.
State employees will find themselves in new tiers once the five-percent pay raise, which was passed this spring, takes effect on July 1.
About 14,000 state employees are affected by this.
This was one of the issues shared by employees during the state listening tour with the PEIA task force.
Lee says they brought the tier rate concern to the governor and now he is calling for the change. But Lee is calling this a short term fix.
The PEIA Task Force is scheduled to meet again on Thursday, June 21.
The PEIA Task Force looking into health-insurance benefits of West Virginia public employees is sharing some of its findings.
One member recently told state lawmakers that people are concerned most about accessibility, affordability and predictability.
Helen Matheny says workers in border counties are concerned with accessibility because the closest medical specialists are often found in neighboring states.
She also says insurance costs are reaching levels state employees can't afford.
These are the early findings from a series of public hearings held across the state, Including one earlier this month at Parkersburg High School.
The PEIA Task Force was formed after this year's statewide teacher walkout.
People can still voice their concerns at seven remaining PEIA hearings across the state, with the final hearing scheduled for June 11th at the Culture Center in Charleston.
ORIGINAL STORY: 5/3/2018
In the aftermath of a work stopped by West Virginia teachers earlier this year, members of a task force are circling the state to get public input on potential changes and improvements to health benefits for state employees.
On Thursday, members of the PEIA task force subcommittee were at Parkersburg High school for the third of 21 public forums scheduled across West Virginia in the coming weeks.
The meetings are designed to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the Public Employees Insurance Agency. The task force members were appointed by Gov. Jim Justice as part of negotiations to ended the education workers' walkout.
The panel of five task force committee answered a variety of questions from many of the 60 people who attended. The pane will provide feedback from the meeting to the full task force..
"Well, they certainly made a lot of eye contact; they seemed to be very receptive," said Bruce Boston, president of the Wood County Education Association. "They were taking notes as I was bringing information to them, so I think they were much more receptive than they have been at other PEIA hearings I've been to."