Insurance premiums and coverage plans are frozen for state employees for the next year and a half. But in a strike last week, teachers said they want a permanent fix for the insurance plan. So the Governor has appointed a 29 member Task Force which met for the first time Tuesday.
It was a mostly organizational meeting where the 29 members laid out the process they will follow to tackle PEIA. Chief of Staff Mike Hall is overseeing the operation and will break members up into three committees.
The group has a tough job- find ways to cut costs, put more money into PEIA and reorganize the program’s structure to help about 1,500 state workers.
“Oftentimes I would find that it wasn’t necessarily the cost, though they didn’t want the cost to escalate, but it might have been something like I couldn’t get the drug that I needed or this co-pay doubling,” Governor Justice’s Chief of Staff Mike Hall said.
Dr. Gupta, head of the state’s Health Office, say it’s expensive to insure unhealthy people, so prevention has to be part of the plan to fix PEIA.
“Obviously the health conditions, whether they are the amount of cancers or chronic health conditions that are driving the costs in so many different ways. As well as ways to get more efficient,” Dr. Gupta explained to 13 News.
But teachers made it clear they didn’t like the health initiative called Go365. Some say they’re open to other programs, as long as they don’t get fined or penalized.
“It’s very important to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Only then can people think it’s easier for me to stay healthy, do the right amount of exercise, eat right and actually get preventative visits and be screened for diseases so we don’t have to pay for it down the road,” Dr. Gupta added.
Union leaders say they’re happy the PEIA staff is taking time to explain the break down of the current program, before heading out for public hearings.
“That’s going to give us plenty of time to study the plan, have those experts come in that we need to from there, and get this thing moving. And you heard everyone in there, we really want to get this thing done before the December deadline,” President of the West Virginia Education Association, Dale Lee told 13 News.
Right now nothing is off the table- from a new tax to pay for PEIA, to a different tiered premium structure, to more privatization of the program. But you can already weigh-in with your thoughts and concerns over at the task force’s website.
The Governor has asked the Task Force to present recommendations by December at the latest, though members hope to have those in by the fall.