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Opinion: The impossible task of ‘fixing’ West Virginia’s PEIA


Many of the public school teachers on strike Thursday and Friday are as upset about health insurance premiums and benefits as they are regarding salaries. “Fix PEIA” — the Public Employees Insurance Agency — signs were common on the picket lines.

But it can’t be fixed. Trust me on this: Each and every member of the Legislature, along with Gov. Jim Justice, wishes devoutly there was a “fix” for the PEIA.

Here’s a tidbit of which you may not be aware: The PEIA already costs West Virginia taxpayers between $450 million and $500 million a year. That’s more than one-tenth of the entire general revenue budget.

The PEIA is eating us alive.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the frustration of teachers and other public employees who rely on the PEIA. They have seen premiums go up and benefits go down for several years.

So have many of their fellow West Virginians. Premiums have gone up and benefits down for virtually everyone in our state. We’re talking health insurance, after all.

Lawmakers and the governor have done what they could, for now. They’re transferring $29 million out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund — which originally was supposed to be reserved for emergencies — to keep PEIA premiums stable for about 17 months. …

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