Updated: February 8, 2018 at 9:34 a.m.
Conversations focused on the insurance provider for public employees continued Wednesday in the West Virginia House of Delegates. The chamber adopted a resolution asking the PEIA Finance Board to hold off on proposed changes for the upcoming year, as House Democrats also pushed to discharge a bill to the floor to repeal the board -- only to see no action on the measure.
House Resolution 5 requests the PEIA Finance Board to suspend implementation of the financial plan as adopted December 7, 2017, for Plan Year 2019.
“I think it's to important act -- certainly not delay and act today. And, if this is the will of the House, we should say it, put it on record and share it with the people of West Virginia,” House Minority Leader Daryl Cowles said.
Cowles noted that the proposed coverage for Plan Year 2019 differs from current coverage plans.
“There are major differences -- increases in premiums for some, increasing copayments and coinsurance and -- for the first time -- the use of total family income [to determine premiums]. The resolution just asks that we give time to study that and look at those things closer,” Cowles said.
But, House Democrats say a resolution asking the PEIA Finance Board to hold off on plan changes stops short of real action to address issues with the insurance program.
“Until we actually do the heavy lifting and fully fund the program and actually fix the program -- that's what we should be doing right now. Making statements is all well and good, but I would prefer doing the real work and actually funding the program,” Democratic Del. Mike Pushkin said.
Del. Mick Bates, also a Democrat, was the only House member to vote against the resolution. He argued that action is needed -- rather than declarations, suggestions or statements.
“We've been doing this for three years now -- so that resolution is meaningless. It means nothing. I don't want to give the impression to people back home that it does mean something,” Bates said after the floor session.
Following the adoption of House Resolution 5, Democrat Del. Issac Sponaugle motioned to discharge House Bill 4346 from committee and bring it to the floor. That motion was tabled on a 57-41 roll call vote.
Later in the floor session, Sponaugle motioned to bring the bill back into play and bring it off the table.
“The language I've seen on the press releases coming out of here over the last 24 hours is: 'We recommend, we ask, we hope that the PEIA financial board will listen to us,'” said Sponaugle, referring to a Tuesday evening release from House Speaker Tim Armstead.
“[It's the] same language the governor is using: 'I recommend, I hope, I pray.' That's what our constituents tell us. They request us to act. We should be taking the responsibility,” Sponaugle added.
The motion to bring House Bill 4346 back from being tabled failed on a 42-56 vote.
The PEIA Finance Board is scheduled to hold public hearings on a proposal to address premiums for households with dual state incomes. According to a news release last week from Gov. Justice, this affects about 5,120 state employees. The meetings are slated for Feb. 12 in Charleston, Feb. 13 in Morgantown and Feb. 14 in Beckley. The finance board will then meet on Feb. 20 to consider action on the proposal.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story used various tenses of the word "pass" to describe action on House Resolution 5. The correct terminology for resolutions would be to "adopt" -- and the story has been updated to reflect that.