October 27, 2009
PEIA planning to keep 'fat tax' proposal in public hearings
By Phil Kabler
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin has declared the issue off the table, but the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board is still planning to put its "fat tax" proposal out for public comment during hearings around the state next month.
On Monday, Manchin told teacher and school service personnel union representatives that he was backing off the proposal to charge higher PEIA premiums to overweight public school and state employees.
That proposal would follow the lead of North Carolina, whose public employee health insurance commission recently announced it will impose higher premiums on overweight employees beginning in 2011.
Last Thursday, the PEIA Finance Board voted to put the proposed "fat tax," along with two other proposed changes in PEIA coverage, out for public comment during hearings around the state next month on PEIA's 2010-11 benefits package.
Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said Tuesday there are no plans to call an emergency meeting of the Finance Board to remove the issue as a topic of discussion.
"What has been put on the agenda is looking at ways to help public employees and retirees live healthier lifestyles," she said.
"We're looking forward to the public hearings," she said. "We want to hear what people have to say."
Calls Tuesday to PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham were redirected to Holley-Brown.
The first of six hearings around the state is scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Charleston Civic Center.
After the hearings, the Finance Board will meet Dec. 3 to give final approval to the 2010-11 benefits plan.
As currently drafted, that plan includes premium increases that average about 4 percent overall, including an 8 percent increase for PEIA Plan A, which is the most common coverage.
PEIA Plan B, which has much higher deductibles, will see about a 4 percent increase, while a proposed new Plan C -- which would provide only in-state medical coverage -- would have slightly lower premiums than the current Plan A.
Retiree premiums would remain essentially the same, with the addition of a $25 annual medical deductible.
In addition to the proposed premium hikes for overweight employees, two other proposals will be up for comment at the public hearings:
· Providing a premium discount to nonusers of tobacco who verify they have signed a living will that includes directives for end-of-life care.
· Imposing a $50-a-month premium penalty on insurees who have their spouses covered under PEIA, if the spouse has health insurance coverage available from his or her employer.