While the issue of teacher pay took center stage in most coverage of the 2018 WV Teachers Strike, those on the picket lines were also very concerned about the rising cost and restrictive policies of their PEIA Healthcare Coverage, and with good reason. It's hard to live a full and free life, when you don't even have the freedom to be keep yourself healthy.
While the governor's appointed PEIA Task Force has continued to miss deadlines, the folks who actually run PEIA have put together their proposed plans through 2020 that people attending a recent public hearing seemed to think was step in the right direction. The new plan gives state employees, and their doctors, more say in where and how they are treated, and at least for this year, costs will stay where they are.
Among other changes, participants will be able to get in-state rates for out-of-state-care at facilities in the counties that immediately border West Virginia. They will also be able to appeal PEIA if they need a brand named, non-preferred prescription.
One of those in attendance at the hearing was Joe White, who represents WV's bus drivers, school cooks, custodians, and other school service personnel. Earlier this year we featured Mr. White in a story about various perspectives on the Teachers Strike. On the new PEIA Plan, Mr. White was optimistic, but made it clear that the legislature needs to commit to finding a long term funding source to make these changes stick.
“Let me be very clear tonight — I applaud the work you have done and continue to do, and I applaud the work the task force has done. But the work hit a brick wall. It’s not complete.”
White said, without the guarantee of a longterm funding solution, PEIA’s problems could be worse in a couple of years down the road. He said school employees can’t afford to pay any more for their health insurance.
When White worked in the schools, he said he had to choose between paying his electric bill and buying groceries, much less pay to go to the doctor.
To read more about the public hearing and PEIA's plans for the coming year, check out the full story from WV News, and be sure to like WV Strong's Facebook Page for more stories about the people and values that make West Virginia great.