PEIA Bill A Hard New Reality for Public Employees and Their Families

By Kim Jones, Health Care for All WV Campaign Coordinator

At a time when it is very difficult for many West Virginia working families to afford the cost of their obligations and painful prices at the grocery store, 230,000 West Virginians will now be struggling even more to afford their health coverage. SB 268 passed the House on Saturday. On Monday, the Senate concurred with the House amendments, and the bill is now on its way to the Governor for signing. 

According to the WV Senate Blog, “Plans for employees and retired employees shall be at a cost-sharing rate of 80 percent for the employer and 20 percent for the employees. PEIA will maintain the 80-20 cost-sharing for in-state and out-of-state in contiguous counties. [The ratio] then drops to 70-30 coverage for other out-of-state providers.

The bill makes a change to spousal coverage through PEIA. If an employee’s spouse has health insurance available through their employer, then they will not be covered under PEIA unless the employee adds the spouse to the plan by paying an additional $147 a month.

If you are a PEIA member who makes $28,101 to $38,101 per year, your premium will go up from $234 to $294.83 a month. With an extra $147 a month for a spouse who chooses PEIA over their own employer-provided insurance. That raises the monthly premium to $441.83. Border counties have to pay an even higher premium with 10% more. If you are a non-Medicare retiree, expect your premium to go up around 7%.

These changes are meant to be offset for some by an across the board pay increase for teachers, school service workers and state troopers of $2,300 a year. However, this will not pay for the increase in premiums if you have to pay the spouse penalty. And many public employees will see a rise in premiums and all of the penalties, but will not get a pay raise. And retirees will have to make it on even less money than they have to make it on now. 

Working in West Virginia comes with many challenges. Most teachers could move across any border and make much more money. One of the incentives put in place to mitigate the low pay was our state’s commitment to affordable insurance. Now another incentive for teachers to stay is gone.

And thousands of public employees in the state will have to pay more and not be given a raise to help cover the increase. Just as one delegate said during the House debate on the bill, our public employees will “feel the pain”. 

It is a shame that the money they are going to cut from the budget with their tax cut for the wealthy couldn’t have been left in the budget to help our public employees.

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