West Virginia Task Force Meets on Insurance Funding Solution

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Less than a week after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a 5 percent pay raise for teachers to end their nine-day strike, a task force kicked off meetings Tuesday to seek a long-term funding solution to an insurance program for teachers and other public employees.

Gov. Jim Justice opened the first meeting of the Public Employees Insurance Agency task force at the state Capitol in Charleston.

“Your participation is really needed,” Justice told the 29-member task force. “I want you to find a solution and I’m not wanting it to take forever. It is massively important for our state.”

Justice and the Legislature agreed to freeze PEIA premiums, deductibles and co-pays for the coming year and provided $29 million in supplemental funding. Teachers want a more permanent funding fix.

Mike Hall, Justice’s chief of staff, chaired the first meeting. Three committees are being formed to review the coverage plan, its costs and revenues, and for legislative and public outreach. Hall said the committee makeup would be determined by early next week.

Another meeting is planned April 10. The original executive order called for public hearings in all 55 counties, but Hall said those meetings would probably be regional.

Hall said the goal is to have a report ready by December’s interim legislative meetings.

“What I would think that we would have to do as a task force is know exactly what we’re talking about,” Hall said. “It’s my opinion that even if you don’t understand anything about insurance, you’ll have to understand how this plan works.”

Among the task force members are lawmakers, educators, retirees, the state’s public health officer and representatives of health systems, teacher unions and state police.

On Monday Justice added six women to the task force after receiving complaints that his initial picks included only two women.