Members of West Virginia's Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board have voted to approve $120 million in cuts to workers' health plans.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the cuts are slated to affect more than 200,000 public employees and retirees. Board members voted on the cuts Thursday because they say there has been no additional state funding to offset rising health care costs. PEIA says it has exhausted its reserve fund in recent years.
Members are now asking lawmakers to fully fund the program during the upcoming legislative session. The board says it will scrap all proposed cuts for public employees and retirees if legislators allocate the $120 million needed to keep workers' benefits the same.
Senate President Bill Cole issued a statement following the PEIA decision.
"I was completely dismayed to learn that the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board on Thursday – rather than accept the responsibility that is placed upon them as members – instead voted unanimously to shift the burden for their failure to rest squarely upon the shoulders of the Legislature.
We don’t walk away from tough problems in the Legislature, and we want to make this abundantly clear: West Virginia’s taxpayers will not be left to hold the bag for the bad decisions and poor management of the political status quo, including this PEIA Finance Board.
Unfortunately, the Board has done little to remedy this situation and willfully ignored this festering problem for the last five years, which has now reached critical mass. Its inaction and spending down of its reserves while pretending this issue would magically repair itself is directly responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today.
The Legislature stands committed to working with the Governor, but the Governor needs to offer a workable solution that doesn't raise taxes on families and is based on fiscal responsibility. The Legislature remains committed to being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. That’s clearly more than can be said for the PEIA Finance Board."