CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The big drama with PEIA is that it’s stable.
When the coming year’s insurance plan for recipients is taken out for public review this fall it won’t include recommendations of higher premiums or a bigger co-pay.
The plan might draw on a newly-established Rainy Day Fund for PEIA for some financial support, but even that is not set in stone.
“That’s good,” said Ted Cheatham, director of the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
It hasn’t always been so.
Concern over rising out-of-pocket costs for state employees was a major factor in a statewide teachers strike almost two years ago.
That prompted the establishment of a PEIA Task Force that toured the state, listening to state employees’ concerns about the cost of insurance.
There weren’t many results from the task force, but one was the establishment of the Rainy Day Fund, which is designed as a savings account that would not trigger an increase in the employee side of an 80-20 contribution.
During Thursday afternoon’s quarterly PEIA Finance Board meeting that can sometimes lead to conflict when recommendations for a new fiscal year’s plan are introduced, there was mostly calm.
“Right now, we had a very good year. We’re in good shape,” Cheatham said. “We have some money to use to help our citizens next year, in 2021.”
Besides avoiding additional costs for insured West Virginians, PEIA proposes a couple of additional benefits for next year including two free chiropractic visits for back pain plus acupuncture for headaches.
Drawing from PEIA’s Rainy Day Fund remains up in the air, Cheatham said.
“Not necessarily,” Cheatham said. “We did talk to Revenue about a worst-case scenario, and it seems like there’s going to be some money available if we need it.”
As it does annually, the PEIA Finance Board will take a proposed plan for the next fiscal year out for public comment at areas around the state in November.
“We’re going to leave the plan stable, add a few minor tweaks to benefits to enhance the plan for people a little bit,” Cheatham said. “So it looks real good. It’s basically business as usual, another year.”
Fred Albert, president of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, was in the audience at Thursday’s quarterly finance board meeting.
Afterward, Albert said he was sighing some relief on behalf of his union’s members.
“It was actually pretty positive,” Albert said. “I know that members are usually anxious around this time of year as to what the next year will hold.
“But this looks like a pretty positive figure. Premiums are not going up. Co-pays are not going up. So I think that our employees and members of PEIA will be appreciative of the work that has been done so far.”
Albert said his union members will continue to watch trends with PEIA over the long haul.
“Short term, it gives us some breathing room,” he said. “And it gives people an idea of how they can plan. So I think we can sit back and take a nice, relaxing, deep breath.”