BY: LORI KERSEY – NOVEMBER 8, 2023 4:07 PM
A proposal to raise health insurance premiums for West Virginia state employees for the second year in a row is drawing criticism from state Democrats and from a union representing West Virginia teachers and school personnel.
The Public Employees Insurance Agency is proposing to increase premiums for state employees by 10.5% for fiscal year 2025, which runs from July 2024 through June 2025.
In addition, the proposed PEIA rates include:
- A 13% premium increase and $147 surcharge for eligible spouses of employees for non-state employees
- No changes to the premium or benefits for Medicare retirees
- A 10% premium increase and no change in benefits for the non-Medicare retirees
Addressing reporters during Wednesday’s administration briefing, Gov. Jim Justice said he would “absolutely” propose another 5% pay increase for state employees during the upcoming legislative session.
“It should more than offset any raises in PEIA, and we need to do that, we need to accomplish that,” Justice said. “Without any question that’s what I’m going to do.”
He added that the increases are “difficult to avoid.”
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, a union whose members include teachers and service personnel such as bus drivers and cooks, said he is concerned about the proposed increase after this year’s increase.
Earlier this year the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 268, which raised health premiums about 25% back to an 80/20 employees premium split and imposed a monthly surcharge of about $150 for spouses of policyholders. It also increased reimbursement to providers to a minimum of 110% of Medicare’s reimbursement.
Separate legislation gave public employees pay raises meant to offset the cost of the hikes.
Lee acknowledged that lawmakers passed a pay raise earlier this year to offset the premium increase, but said employees would need another pay raise to offset the proposed increase.
“More importantly there are no pay raises for the [non-Medicare] retirees who face a 10% premium increase in this proposed plan,” Lee said.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, state Democrats criticized Justice, recalling his comments in 2021 that premiums would not go up while he’s governor “unless there’s a meteorite to hit the earth.”
“Where I come from a handshake and a promise still means something,” said Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said in the statement. Fluharty attended PEIA’s public hearing in Wheeling Monday, the statement said. “Apparently the supermajority in the Legislature thinks our public employees will forget that promises were made and not kept.”
Democratic Party Chairman Mike Pushkin added “Whether it’s to his business creditors or to state workers, we’ve learned time and time again that the Governor’s promises aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Our educators and public employees are the backbone of West Virginia, and it’s time the Legislature and the governor’s office treat them with the respect and integrity they deserve,” he said in the statement.
- 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9 at Holiday Inn — University Area in Morgantown
- 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13 at the Culture Center in Charleston
- 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Bluefield State College’s Basic Sciences Auditorium
- Virtually and by phone at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16. Participants can call +1 413-418-2183 and enter the pass code 453 611 324#. A link to the meeting can be found here.
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