by Kaitlyn Thompson
In Charleston, W.Va., Senators and Delegates are currently gathered for the 2018 legislative session. During this time, bills are opened, discussed, failed and passed, but without knowing it, these bills can have a detrimental effect on students, business owners and educators statewide.
One of the top discussions in the House of Delegates and the Senate is Public Employee’s Insurance Agency (PEIA). PEIA is the insurance agency for most state employees. Until recently, PEIA was the preferred insurance for educators and their families. However, after changes were proposed within state code, teachers are considering taking extreme measures if legislators do not begin to recognize how severe the problem is.
When looking into the details of PEIA’s additions and changes to policies, educators are not being benefited; they are being given a new policy that invades their privacy, effects income and has the ability to charge those who do not meet certain requirements.
Go365 is the new policy PEIA will be moving toward. Although it is not required for state employees, this policy is a recommended wellness program that rewards teachers for becoming more active and improving their overall health. The rewards include Amazon gift cards or even fitness devices, but the fine print says more.
Teachers can earn these rewards if they get flu shots, have eye exams, go for walks, donate blood and take part in other healthy lifestyle choices. However, this policy hurts teachers if they are diabetic, carry a weight that is considered unhealthy by PEIA’s Healthy Tomorrow’s program and do not meet the many other requirements within the policy.
According to PEIA’s FY18 proposal, those who do not meet Healthy Tomorrow’s goals for the year will be required to submit blood work by a specific date, or be served with a deductible penalty of $500 and a $25 monthly payment on their premium. Delegate Isaac Sponaugle addressed this point during the legislative session on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.
“Now by policy, we are implementing pre-existing conditions. We look at your blood scores. You’re an individual that’s had cancer…, and they look back at your blood scores…you get a $500 deductible penalty. Your premiums go up $25 a month,” Delegate Sponaugle stated.
Even though PEIA’s Go365 comes with many benefits, the requirements are invasive and give no respect to the privacy of their members. The new policy may seem to be in the best interest of teachers, but in reality, it is only hurting West Virginia’s state employees.
Teachers across the state are emailing and visiting senators and delegates to express their fears, opinions and concerns with this sudden change in policy. As the legislative session continues, hopefully legislators begin to realize what Go365 could do to teachers and other state employees.
Delegate Sponaugle stated how they (legislators) are responsible and accountable to the people of West Virginia. “It’s time that we stand up so the citizens of the state of WV can see who’s protecting the public employees,” Delegate Sponaugle stated.
On Jan. 17, 2018, Senator Richard Ojeda stood on the Senate floor and stated, “We as legislators need to really start paying attention to what they’re saying…”
As the session continues, West Virginia’s delegates and senators need to evaluate what is right for their employees. Teachers and other state employees need to come together to create a foundation for what they believe is right and voice their concerns to the legislators about what it is really like to be an employee under their specified policies.
Photo Credit: WCHS/WVAH