By May 4, 2018 Read More →

Editorial: Express your thoughts on PEIA

The Weirton Daily Times editorial

West Virginia has its own “entitlement” problem, and it will be the subject of public meetings in our area during the next several weeks.

Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the elephants in the room when talk turns to reining in deficit spending by the federal government.

Medicaid is a drain on state finances, too. But the Mountain State has its own challenge totally separate from federal programs — the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

Counting government employees, retirees and dependents, the PEIA provides health insurance for about 230,000 West Virginians. As has been the case with all kinds of health coverage, PEIA costs have been climbing steadily for years.

Educators and service employees who shut down public schools earlier this year were upset not just about pay, but also about the PEIA. Specifically, they wanted assurances their premiums will not go up and their benefits will not be reduced.

Gov. Jim Justice named a 29-member task force to look into how the educators “Fix PEIA” demand may be met.

Doing so will require fiscal magic of the type to which Mountain State residents are not accustomed. Placating the educators would require steady increases in taxpayer subsidies for the PEIA, already around $422 million a year.

To their credit, task force members have scheduled a round of public meetings throughout the state, to discuss the dilemma. Locally, a meeting will be held at 11 a.m., May 12 at the Millsop Community Center in Weirton.

If you are concerned about the PEIA — and, whether you get insurance from the program or pay taxes to help support it, you should be — we encourage you to attend one of the meetings. Bring your thinking cap and be prepared to suggest and listen to “out of the box” ideas.

PEIA task force members will need all the help they can get to solve the problem.

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