Monday, November 17, 2008

PEIA Rate Hike Announcement Well Timed

West Virginia's Public Employees Insurance Agency plans to raise employee premiums 9% and retirees 11% while also expanding the copays on vital necessities such as prescription drugs. The plan also proposes a built in financial burden placed upon members that go to out of state hospitals.

A plan only a bureaucrat or a state hospital could love.

It is true that private sector premiums are rising higher. It is also true that salaries in the private sector also go up more quickly. Some state employees, even with raises, make the same now as they did three years ago because of the last rate increase. Factor in inflation and they are doing worse. Union officals cite the 1/3 of a billion dollar budget surplus as a reason why increases may not be necessary.

The Potomac Highlands region will suffer more than others. The major hospitals that serve this region are located in Cumberland and Winchester. For significant health problems, people in these areas would have to travel to Morgantown to save money. What sense does that make?

As bad as the proposals will seem to a state worker, the timing of this announcement was interesting. Doing it after Election Day means that the political blowback on legislators and the governor would be minimal. Would state workers have supported their local Democrat if they knew this was in the pipeline?

Of course rate increases cannot take place without public hearings. Conveniently, most of these meetings take place during the workweek, minimizing the ability of employees to attend.

It's not so much the increases, although state workers are being squeezed by inflation and infrequent raises, because these happen to everyone. It is the way this announcement was made and how the meetings are scheduled. I would suggest that all state teachers and other workers call off sick one day to travel to the Charleston or Morgantown meeting en masse. Of course state workers and teacher unions will gripe and complain, yet continue to vote for the same Democrats that run this kind of show when we hit 2010.

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