After this years teachers strike led to a 5-percent pay raise for all educators and state employees, the Governor also promised to fix and fund the PEIA health program.
State lawmakers met at the capitol Monday to get an update on proposed changes to PEIA.
Governor Justice promised $100 million of state surplus money this year to fully fund the health insurance program, but there are concerns about permanent funding.
“Well $100 million dollars is a huge help,” said Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association. “And it gives us some time, but I’m looking at a long-term, long-range funding source.”
Employees have long complained that in years with no pay raises, they actually lost money. That’s because their medical premiums, co-pays and deductibles all went up. Leaders say that jacked up the overall cost to the state.
“If you just do the math, about a billion-dollar company, and you have 5-percent medical inflation, then you would need to come up with 40 to 50 million dollars annually just for cost increases if everything stays the same,” explained Joe Letnaunchyn with the PEIA Stability Task Force.
One PEIA change would allow state employees to visit doctors and hospitals in bordering state counties without having to pay a higher co-pay.
Delgate Ruth Rowan’s district borders Virginia.
“Well, Route 50 runs right from downtown Romney to the front door to the hospital in Winchester, and it’s across the border,” said Rowan (R-Hampshire). “You know it’s a convenient hospital for my constituents to go to.”
The PEIA Task Force is also trying to make prescription drugs more affordable.
In all the task force held 21 public meetings all across West Virginia. It’s final recommendations still have to be approved by the Legislature. They and the Governor will have the final say and there could be some meeting when the full legislature meets next month.