W.Va. PEIA rates capped for 2013

CHARLESTON (AP) — More than 100,000 West Virginia households covered by the Public Employees Insurance Agency won’t see health care premiums rise or benefits shrink next year, under decisions reached Thursday by its finance board.

Board members cited the $4 million in additional funds pledged by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin before voting against a proposed hike to the maximum amount that families pay out-of-pocked toward their coverage.

Agency Executive Director Ted Cheatham said the increase would have saved the amount of funding committed by Tomblin. But other proposed changes will go forward, including reduced premiums for alternative benefit plans, Cheatham said Friday.

PEIA is also shifting the start of the plan year for retirees from July 1, where it will remain for active employees, to Jan. 1. That change will allow the agency’s prescription drug program for retirees to draw down an additional $10 million in federal funds.

With health care costs rising, Cheatham noted that Thursday’s outcome will keep premiums unchanged for employees for two years and even longer for retirees.

“That’s significant,” Cheatham said. “It’s not going to last forever.”

PEIA covers around 76,000 state and local public employees and their families as well as round 31,000 retiree households. The agency held a series of public hearings around the state last month to discuss the proposed changes, and will post details from the final plan approved Thursday on its website, Cheatham said.

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