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Alternate PEIA plan OK’d, hinges on tobacco tax

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State and public school employees with health insurance through the Public Employees Insurance Agency could be trading $120 million in severe benefits cuts for about $14 million in higher premiums next year, under a plan adopted Thursday.

Members of the PEIA Finance Board approved an alternate 2017-18 benefits plan on Thursday, relying on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposal in the State of the State address to increase state funding for the employers’ share of PEIA premiums by $43.8 million.

However, the plan is contingent on the Legislature approving the governor’s funding proposal this session, which relies on an increase in state tobacco taxes.

The plan adopted Thursday requires an average 12 percent increase in employee premiums, as opposed to the original plan approved by the board in December that would have imposed severe increases in co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum payments to close a $120 million PEIA funding deficit.

That option, American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Christine Campbell said, would push many employees “down to poverty.”

However, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee called the new plan an illusion if the Legislature fails to approve the governor’s funding proposal…

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