- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Public hearings are scheduled to begin next month on $40 million in cuts to health care benefits with the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

The agency’s finance board on Thursday approved a menu of possible cuts to present at the hearings and ahead of a December vote on the 2015-16 benefits package. Hearings are scheduled to begin Nov. 10 in Beckley.

“We’re going to ask our constituents how they want these $40 million of benefit cuts distributed,” PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham said. “These are going to be difficult public hearings.”

The new plan would need to cut $30 million in benefits for active employees, $3 million for county and municipal employees covered by PEIA, $4.5 million for pre-65 retirees and $4 million for Medicare retirees.

For active employees, the menu of cuts includes increasing out-of-pocket maximums for family coverage, increasing deductibles and increasing primary-care office visit co-pays. Officials also are looking at instituting a Healthy Tomorrows program, which would increase the annual deductible by $500 for employees who fail to meet standards to encourage healthy lifestyles.

“PEIA is finally getting to the place where we have the tools for members to take care of themselves,” Cheatham said.

Part of the reason for the benefit cuts is that employer premiums for PEIA have not increased in three years, said Josh Sword, a member of the agency’s finance board.

The Charleston Gazette (https://bit.ly/1we7uzP) reports that the agency couldn’t consider a increase this year because the governor’s budget recommendations don’t include additional funding for employer premiums.

Public hearings also are scheduled for Nov. 13 in Huntington, Nov. 17 in Martinsburg, Nov. 18 in Morgantown, Nov. 19 in Wheeling and Nov. 20 in Charleston.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, https://www.wvgazette.com


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