West Virginia House of Delegates Urges PEIA Board To Freeze Rates for 2018

WHEELING — The House of Delegates on Wednesday passed a resolution requesting the Public Employee Insurance Administration board take action to freeze PEIA rates at current levels, but the move doesn’t yet have local teachers jumping for joy.

Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday directed the board to make the move as teachers in southern counties began staging walkouts in protests of PEIA premium increases.

House Resolution 5 passed Wednesday by a near-unanimous vote of 97-1. The only “no” vote came from Delegate Nick Bates, D-Raleigh, who serves as minority vice chairman of the House Finance Committee.

“I’m not making any public statement right now,” Marshall County Education Association President Matt Mandarino said.

He confirmed a regional town hall-style meeting, organized by the teachers unions for 4 p.m. Saturday at John Marshall High School, is still set to take place.

Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall — also a retired teacher — said he will be among those speaking at the town hall.

“PEIA rates haven’t been frozen — the governor just made a call for them to do that,” he said. “The PEIA board has to do it to make it frozen. It has to meet to make it official.”

There also has been no talk about how the rate freeze would be funded, according to Ferro. Justice said Wednesday the funding could come from extra money he requested for tourism and development.

Ferro said the freeze would affect not just the health care premiums for teachers, but for all state employees.

“I don’t know what they believe,” Ferro said of the teachers. “We’ll find out. We will enlighten them on what we know is to be the truth…

“If this is just a one-year moratorium, it doesn’t do any good — even if it comes to fruition.”

Delegate Roger Romine, R-Tyler, also is a retired educator. He sees the call for the freeze in PEIA premiums as “a good move” from Justice.

“It gives us an opportunity to look at it, and hopefully come up with a permanent solution,” he said. “Each year it seems to be an an issue.

Romine believes teachers will be receptive to the freeze.

“At first blush, it will give us an opportunity to look at it and come up with something,” he said.