Randy Yohe Published

PEIA On Track For Short-Term Funding, Long-Term Fears

West Virginia Education Association's President Dale Lee attends a Senate Education Committee meeting on Jan. 24 2019.

Following a statewide series of public comment sessions, a now finalized PEIA plan has no premium increases in 2023 and 2024 for state employees or retirees. Premiums will go up 9.7 percent for non-state participants.

The agency’s five-year outlook projects zero increases through 2027. But anticipated rising healthcare costs would require nearly $400 million more in public funds to offset shortfalls.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said the future financial projection is old news that needs new attention.

“I feel like I should go ahead and record my remarks and just punch play every time they have a meeting, because it’s the same remarks for the last two years,” Lee said. “I applaud Gov. Jim Justice, and I truly believe that there won’t be any increases under his watch. After he leaves, we’re facing some dire circumstances.”

Justice has pledged to keep premiums flat while he’s in office. Following the 2018 statewide teacher strike, he established a $100 million reserve fund to cover any rising insurance costs.

But what happens when Justice is out of office?

Lee said concerns over long term funding harken back to a 2019 legislative recommendation from the PEIA task force.

“Put PEIA money into the general fund so that you know that you’re funding it. Provisions that the state shall pay no less than 80 percent of that and the employee shall pay no more than 20 percent,” Lee said. “The cost savings would come under the employee share. It’s a way of ensuring the long term viability of PEIA.”

Lee said one current legislative leader supported the recommendation, but has yet to act.

“At the time, Senate President Craig Blair was the Finance Committee Chair and a member of the task force,” Lee said. “He seconded the motion to make this a recommendation that passed. And yet it hasn’t made its way to a committee agenda since 2019.”

Lee said legislation requiring PEIA money to go into the general fund will be proposed in the upcoming regular session.