House Majority Whip Mike Caputo is thankful that Administration Secretary Robert Ferguson has announced that the Public Employee Insurance Agency Finance Board will re-evaluate its decision to eliminate retiree health insurance benefits for future state and public school employee hires.
“To make such a drastic decision – one that will surely discourage young, talented teachers vital to our educational system from taking jobs in West Virginia – so quickly is at the very least ill advised,” Caputo, D-Marion, said. “It is appropriate to slow down, and let all affected and interested parties have a voice.”
Caputo said he was shocked when he learned of the PEIA board’s vote last week, particularly because it took place during an emergency meeting, and the public had not been notified that the proposal was to be considered.
“There certainly was the appearance that the board was attempting to circumvent teacher representatives and others,” he said. “I am glad that Secretary Ferguson, as chairman of the PEIA Finance Board, is going to reconsider his actions and make the process open and transparent, as it should be.”
The delegate said he has already heard from young people studying to become educators who are rethinking their plans to teach in West Virginia. “The elimination of that as a retirement benefit would be a huge disincentive,” Caputo said. “We are asking people to come home to West Virginia, then we do something like this?”
He noted that one of the biggest priorities on the national level is ensuring affordable and accessible health care for all Americans.
“Health care coverage is extremely important to all of us,” Caputo noted. “At a time when Congress is grappling with how best to provide affordable health care for the uninsured, it boggles my mind that there are those in this state who would attempt to take away health coverage from state workers when they reach retirement age – an age when you need health care coverage more than ever.”