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Opinion: W.Va. Senate President Carmichael says strong legislative leadership protects state employees from health insurance cost increases

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –  W.Va. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, today said West Virginia’s public employees – unlike their counterparts in the federal government and private sector workers – will once again remain protected from the costs of health care inflation over the coming year thanks to strong, conservative budget leadership by the state Legislature.

W.Va. Senate President Mitch Carmichael

This week, the Washington Post reported that health insurance premiums for federal employees and retirees will increase by 5.6% in the coming year. Senate President Carmichael said this announcement is in stark contrast to the West Virginia Legislature holding health care premiums for teachers and state employees steady for three consecutive years, without any increase to Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) members.

Without any tax increases on West Virginia citizens or businesses, in 2019 the Legislature increased funding to PEIA by $105 million. Because of this additional funding, combined with the plan’s strong financial performance, benefit plans for 2020-21 have no cuts to services and no premium increases for both active state employees and retirees.

This marks the third consecutive year of zero premium increases.

“We have accomplished a lot of great things in the last few years, but this is one we should very proud to celebrate,” Senate President Carmichael said. “It’s astounding to think that when private employees across the country, and now even federal employees, are having to pay more for their health care, that we have ensured that our hardworking state employees do not see these same increases.”

“While there’s no question that we must explore long-term, sustainable funding solutions for PEIA, it’s important to note that the steps we’ve already taken have kept premiums flat for three years, and not just that, but kept premiums flat while expanding services to those employees who live in border counties,” Senate President Carmichael said. “I am confident there are few, if any, other states who could share the same news.”

PEIA covers more than 200,000 public employees and dependents through its benefit plans.

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