AEA responds to winning lawsuit against PEEHIP

AEA responds to winning lawsuit against PEEHIP
Teachers from across Alabama rallied at the Alabama Supreme Court in Nov. 2018 to support the AEA's lawsuit over their health insurance rates. AEA has since won over PEEHIP. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Education Association is responding after winning a lawsuit against the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan, or PEEHIP, last week.

The state’s highest court ruled in favor of the Alabama Education Association in a lawsuit concerning closed door meetings held by the teacher’s health insurance plan.

Teachers are about to see more money in their paychecks thanks to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling.

The AEA claimed that back in 2016 PEEHIP’s board did not follow the state’s open meeting law when it increased premiums and spousal surcharges. PEEHIP claimed it did everything by the book.

In August 2017, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Johnny Hardwick ruled the board violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act by approving the increases behind closed doors.

The AEA’s associate executive director called the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision a “landmark” ruling.

“I think it was good for our employees of the Alabama Education Association, but it was also good for all the people that were members of PEEHIP. All the members of PEEHIP benefited from this decision rendered by the Supreme Court. It sends a message to all government agencies, especially to those that have to comply with the Open Meetings Act," said AEA Associate Executive Director Theron Stokes.

With the ruling, thousands of Alabama teachers - as well as other employees who use PEEHIP - who qualify, will get a refund on those increases.

“What this does is it brings attention to the Open Meetings Act, because it’s important for all agencies to be open and transparent. No agency should be having closed-door meetings and making major decisions without public input and public knowledge, and we feel like this case establishes the requirements that all agencies need to follow regarding open meetings in which they have, and especially meetings that the public needs to know,” said Stokes.

Stokes said the issue surrounding this case was an important matter that all PEEHIP employees should have known about. He went on to say that this ruling was not only important for the AEA.

“This case is important to the press also, because the Open Meetings Act allows the press to be present, and if you leave out the press, if you leave out the public, then we won’t have knowledge about what’s going on,” said Stokes. “There should be no close-door meetings by public agencies, and that’s what we feel like is paramount and that’s what’s important about this case.”

PEEHIP released a statement in response to the decision.

“Lawyers for PEEHIP are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the Supreme Court’s decision so that they can determine the appropriate course of action."

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