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Stop bleeding through PEIA

Ted Cheatham, who is executive director of West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency, knows the route to the state Capitol well. He has traveled it many times, often with hat in hand.

It will not be long before he repeats the performance, Cheatham informed members of the House of Delegates Finance Committee on Friday.

Tens of thousands of working and retired public employees rely on the PEIA for health insurance. About 80 percent of their premiums are paid by taxpayers.

PEIA expenses have risen substantially, as have costs for health care in general. That frequently requires Cheatham to ask legislators for supplemental appropriations.

Last year, they agreed to set aside $105 million in a “rainy day” fund similar to one by the same name used to guard against fiscal emergencies involving other state agencies’ budgets. No doubt some lawmakers hoped handing over that much money would allow them — and West Virginia taxpayers — to rest easy for a few years.

On Friday, Cheatham told finance committee members the $105 million may be gone by fiscal 2023 — only about two and a half years from now.

He explained the PEIA has a Premium Stabilization Reserve Fund of nearly $60 million, in addition to the $105 million approved last year by legislators. The $60 million account was established solely to avoid having to increase premiums paid by PEIA enrollees.

By the end of fiscal 2022, the entire $165 million may be gone. Projections are that the PEIA will have to ask lawmakers for another supplemental appropriation.

Talk about a broken record. PEIA expenses are like the weather — everyone complains about them, but no one ever does anything to solve the problem.

Lawmakers and PEIA officials need to find a way to get cost increases under control. One cannot blame some West Virginia taxpayers for being sick of the PEIA.

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