WV PEIA board OKs ‘draconian’ benefit cuts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 200,000 public employees and retirees in West Virginia will see “draconian” cuts to their health insurance benefits next year — unless state lawmakers decide to fully fund the program during the upcoming legislative session.

Members of the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board voted unanimously Thursday to approve $120 million in cuts to workers’ health plans.

The expected fallout: Steep increases in co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for medical care, as well as major increases in prescription drug costs.

“This is going to be very devastating,” said Elaine Harris, a PEIA board member. “People are going to have to make choices, and those choices are not good choices.”

Board members said they’ve run out of options for keeping employees’ current benefits. There’s been no additional state funding to offset rising health care costs, and PEIA has exhausted its reserve fund in recent years.

“There’s no more money to spend down,” Harris said.

In a separate vote Thursday, board members tried to shift the onus for the cuts to the state Legislature…

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