It is perhaps the central issue of the West Virginia teacher strike, health care costs rising for state employees on PEIA, the public employee insurance agency.
Public employees are fed up with PEIA. They say insurance premiums keep going up and they just can’t afford it. But here’s the problem, each year thanks to medical inflation PEIA needs an additional $50 million in order to not raise premiums.
So the Governor had an idea- what if you take $29 million in revenue this year and add it to the $20 million PEIA made of it’s investments? That would get you close to filling the hole so premiums won’t go up for 2018 or 2019.
But teachers say what about after that? So the House Finance Committee had another idea- what if you take 20 percent of general revenue surplus each year and put that toward filling any deficit PEIA has. But teachers say “What if there is no surplus one year? Then there would be no money?”
So, teachers are proposing something like a natural gas tax or soda tax so that public employees know at least some additional money would be going to PEIA every year.
Now the House and Senate can’t agree on either one of these ideas and the Governor says he doesn’t like any of them. Governor Justice wants to see a special task force formed to find a permanent fix to PEIA.
Since no decision has been made, teachers say they will continue to strike.