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West Virginia House supports PEIA fund, but not all delegates think it will work


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Support for a bill in the House of Delegates to create a new funding stream for the state Public Employees Insurance Agency was unanimous Thursday, but views on how well the proposal will work were anything but.

The bill (HB4625) passed 98-0, but during a 90-minute floor debate, critics argued that the bill is yet another Band-Aid for the fundamental problem with the state-managed health insurance program — it needs another $50 million to $70 million of new funding each year to keep up with rising medical and drug costs.

“We’re literally throwing two or three cents at a dollar problem,” complained Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton. “This is a good idea, but you’re not making it a priority.”

The plan — debated before House galleries packed with teachers who went on strike Thursday, in part, over increasing PEIA costs — would direct the first 20 percent of each year’s budget surplus into the PEIA Stabilization Fund to help offset employee premium increases.

As House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson explained, because the state is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget each year, the state always finishes the budget year with a surplus of some sort, even in years when there are major revenue shortfalls.

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