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WVU wants PEIA overhaul, citing inequities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia University officials urged a state board Thursday to overhaul public employees’ health insurance plans, saying the system has shafted WVU employees for years.

WVU workers pay higher monthly insurance premiums but get fewer health benefits than other state employees, university administrators told the Public Employee Insurance Agency’s Finance Board.

“There are just so many inequities with the way this thing has been designed,” said Toni Christian, WVU’s director of benefits administration. “We’re asking you to please take a look at this.”

Each year, WVU employees pay about $54 million into PEIA, but the agency pays out only $30 million in claims for university workers’ medical expenses, according to PEIA financial data.

“We believe we’re truly overcharged for premiums, compared to claims paid,” Christian said, “and we believe that is continuing.”

People sign up for part-time, low-paying state jobs and take advantage of PEIA’s discounted premiums, even though those employees might have high-paying jobs in the private sector or have spouses who make more than $100,000 a year, WVU officials said.

PEIA doesn’t include a spouse’s pay or outside income when calculating monthly insurance premiums.

“Isn’t that a tragedy?” said Margaret Phillips, WVU’s vice president of human resources. “We’ve allowed these people to pay and to subsidize others who were truly not low-income, and we have put that on the backs of our employees. That is a tragedy to me.

“We’re paying $24 million more into this health plan than we’re utilizing, so we feel we are subsidizing . . . a lot of people who are gaming the system.”

State employees who pay higher insurance premiums also pay higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses — and they receive fewer health benefits under PEIA’s plan, the WVU administrators said.

 “We call it the triple whammy…

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