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Closing a Health Care “Loophole” for WV Construction Workers

January 14, 2008

Charleston, WV – Under state law, state-funded construction projects include funding for workers' health care, but strangely enough, the law does not require contractors to make sure their workers actually get that insurance coverage. A proposed law before the West Virginia Legislature aims to close this major loophole.

The proposal would require that contractors show proof of workforce health coverage. Scott Brewer with the Carpenters Union in West Virginia says unless the loophole is closed, workers can end up relying on public assistance to meet medical costs -- which means, in effect, taxpayers pay twice.

"It leaves these construction workers and their families uncovered. If employers would simply spend the money that is dedicated to healthcare coverage on healthcare coverage, then their employees' families would be covered and their medical expenses would be paid, instead of being passed along to taxpayers."

He says many companies pay the money for healthcare coverage directly to workers, but that doesn't solve the problem because individual health plans are typically too expensive for workers to afford. Brewer adds that construction trade unions have been working to get this law passed for years. In his view, it would ensure that taxpayer money is being spent the way it's intended.

Critics say contractors would have a hard time complying with the proposed requirement, because it would be too difficult or expensive.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WV