The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 19, 2013

PEIA foresees no premium increase


The Associated Press

CHARLESTON — State and public school employees covered by West Virginia’s public employee insurance plan likely will see no increases in their health insurance premiums next year.

The Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board has tentatively approved a 2014-15 plan containing only minor changes in two categories of co-payments, the Charleston Gazette reported Friday. If the plan wins final approval, it will mark the third straight year that premiums will not be increased.

A final vote on the freeze will be taken in December after a series of public hearings around the state.

Ted Cheatham, the insurance agency’s executive director, said the premium freeze is possible because of less-than-projected medical and prescription drug expenses and strong investment earnings during the past year.

“Last year was a tremendous year. I’ve never seen anything like that,” Cheatham said Thursday.

For active employees, medical claims costs dropped 2.7 percent and prescription drug expenditures fell 4.2 percent. That’s in sharp contrast to national trends of 4 percent annual increases in medical costs, he said.

Cheatham said the weak economy may have led policyholders to put off elective procedures or make fewer visits to the doctor. Also, he noted that in the first week of July 2012, following the massive derecho storm, medical claims dropped $6 million compared to the same week in 2011.

“People didn’t go see the doctor. They were worried about other things,” he said.

Cheatham also said an aggressive program to encourage the use of generic equivalents instead of expensive brand-name prescription drugs appears to be working, with generics accounting for more than 80 percent of all PEIA prescriptions filled.