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July 4th: an opportunity to examine the state of U.S. Democracy in places like MT; disturbing bodycam video of a fatal police shooting in Ohio; ripple effects from SCOTUS environmental ruling.


The Biden administration works to ensure abortion access, Liz Cheney says Jan 6th committee could call for criminal charges against Trump, and extreme heat and a worker shortage dampens firework shows.


From flying saucers to bologna: America's summer festivals kick off, rural hospitals warn they do not have the necessities to respond in the post-Roe scramble, advocates work to counter voter suppression, and campaigns encourage midterm voting in Indian Country.

What Would a Real PEIA Fix Look Like?


Monday, March 5, 2018   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Striking teachers are angry about rising health care premiums and eroding benefits from West Virginia's Public Employee Insurance Agency. But what would a real PEIA fix look like?

School workers, who are away from their classrooms for an eighth day today, say they want more than a temporary premium freeze and a task force. According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, PEIA needs a regular stream of new revenue worth $50 million a year.

Perry Bryant, former longtime PEIA finance board member, said past funding didn't match the wildfire pace of medical inflation.

"This goes back a number of years. There were years under Gov. Tomblin's administration where they gave no increases," Bryant said. "That's what truly created the crisis, is this chronic under-funding of PEIA."

So far, legislative leaders have opposed new taxes. One proposal to increase gas severance taxes was quickly shot down by opponents arguing that the industry pays less in neighboring states.

Bryant said given the high rate of medical inflation, any long-term fix is going to have to include cost containment. Supporters of increasing taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and sugary drinks argue these could nudge people toward healthier choices. But Bryant said those wouldn't be enough.

"Sugary soft drinks or tobacco, or alcohol or severance-tax increases, they are going to fill in the gap,” he said. “But controlling health care costs is the real solution."

Teachers are also voicing frustration with the Senate's handling of the pay raise in House Bill 4145. Confused voting ended with that body rejecting a 5 percent raise, changing it to 4 percent and sending that into a conference with the House.

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