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Buy NowThousands braved cold temperatures and rainfall to attend a “Statewide Day of Action” rally Saturday on the South steps of the West Virginia Capitol. The state Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board voted Tuesday to freeze health premiums and benefits for the next fiscal year.

CRAIG HUDSON | Gazette-Mail file photo

During a succinct, eight-minute meeting, members of the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board unanimously approved a freeze on PEIA health insurance premiums and benefits for the 2018-19 plan year.

“For one year, beginning in July of this year, benefits and premiums will be exactly as they are today,” PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham said of the freeze, which was called for by Gov. Jim Justice.

“How many companies do you know that don’t have a change in benefits from year to year?” Cheatham added.

The freeze leaves a $29 million hole in PEIA’s 2018-19 budget, a hole that would have been filled under the 2018-19 benefits plan approved in December by increasing premiums on some insurees, primarily through a controversial provision to use total family income to set premiums for family and employee and spouse coverage.

The Legislature is weighing several options to fund the $29 million, including a bill passed by the House of Delegates last week to take the money, if…