How about a Big Fat Liar Tax?

Joe Manchin is claiming these days that he never said anything about charging obese state workers higher premiums. He even sent state employees an email saying he never said it:

A Message from Gov. Joe Manchin III to our Public Employees:

The rising cost of health care is one of the most pressing issues facing our state and nation. And, there have been several news articles in the last few days about the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) looking for ways to continue providing quality health care to our hard-working state and local employees without having to dramatically increase premiums.

Unfortunately, there’s been grossly inaccurate and hurtful information reported that suggests that PEIA and I have supported what some media have termed a “fat tax,” a health insurance penalty for employees whose individual body size or Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds a particular limit.

Let me be clear in saying that this is completely false. And let me also sincerely apologize to you if you were led to believe that this insensitive and offensive term would ever be used by this administration.

I am as offended and disheartened as many of our state employees may have been upon hearing that this proposed “tax” could be suggested in West Virginia…

“Completely false”?  On October 22 Phil Kabler reported:

Gov. Joe Manchin is asking the Public Employees Insurance Agency to consider following North Carolina’s lead to impose higher health insurance premiums on overweight public employees.

“He asked me, “Why aren’t we doing something like that?” PEIA director Ted Cheatham told the PEIA Finance Board Thursday. “I told him, we had talked about that as a board, but there was no political will in the past to go down that road.”

On October 26, Manchin spokeman Matt Turner said “What we want is ways to incentivize people, to reward them for healthy lifestyles.” If a higher premium isn’t an incentive, I don’t know what one is.

But in the numerous reports in the media, the Manchin administration never said that the reports were incorrect, or that Ted Cheatham was wrong when he was quoted as saying Joe Manchin asked for this. Has Turner ever called Kabler up and told him he was wrong? Probably because WVEA President Dale Lee attended the board meeting, and verified that Cheatham said Manchin instructed him to bring the North Carolina plan up for discussion at the Finance Board.

But what we need to remember is that, now that it has been proposed, PEIA is not removing it from the agenda. That means it’s up for discussion at the various meetings around the state. That means it will get a lot of heated argument, which will take a lot of attention away from other proposed changes, including another general increase in employee contributions, removing more drugs from availability to employees, and other items that might be of greater interest to state employees.

So if that stuff gets ignored, PEIA wins. And if the fat tax gets approved in spite of employees’ arguments, PEIA wins. And Joe Manchin will claim he had nothing to do with it.


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