Randy Yohe Published

PEIA Faces Long-Term Funding Challenges

Health insurance form with stethoscope

A five year outlook published by the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) keeps state employee premiums at zero through 2027, but anticipates transferring in more than $375 million in public funds to shore up the program.

At a PEIA Finance Board meeting Thursday, CFO Jason Haught laid out a 2024 draft plan that was approved to go to the next step — public hearings.

The 2024 projected plan does include some deductibles and out-of-pocket adjustments.

Under-performing stock market investments and resuming pandemic-delayed elective medical procedures helped create a $92 million deficit in 2022. In 2018, rising insurance premiums and no pay raises sparked a statewide teachers strike.

Gov. Jim Justice has pledged to keep premiums flat during his terms in office. Following the teacher strike, he established a $100 million reserve fund to cover any rising insurance costs. The PEIA long-term outlook figures use all of that funding for 2023 and 2024, with nothing available after that. The concern is the rising costs going into the next gubernatorial cycle.

PEIA Chairman Mark Scott said the agency plans on resuming funding discussions to cover the long-range cost projections and avoid benefit reductions.

“There are discussions ongoing with the legislature about ways that we might be able to impact these price increases going forward,” Scott said. “We are definitely willing and wanting to listen to ideas from all parties on the ways that we can keep these costs from increasing as high as we estimate.”

The 2024 plan will be presented at a series of statewide public hearings, beginning next week.