The West Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee has originated and cleared a bill that would add to the PEIA Basic Insurance Premium Fund. The bill would help ensure a freeze on proposed changes to insurance plans for state employees.
House Finance Chair Eric Nelson said House Bill 4620 would pull $29 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for a transfer to the Public Employees Insurance Agency. The move is to guarantee there would be no changes to employee healthcare programs for the coming fiscal year.
“This is an unusual step. [But] we've heard much from our teachers and state employees about the uncertainties of PEIA,” Nelson said Wednesday on the House floor.
Nelson also made note of public hearings held this week by the PEIA Finance Board, with the third of three meetings scheduled for Wednesday night in Beckley. The board will convene next week to consider holding off on the proposed changes.
“Yes, we could handle this through our budget process,” Nelson said of the transfer to the PEIA Basic Insurance Premium Fund. “But, I think for this body to give assurances to our public employees that we mean business and that we're asking the board to make no changes to their current plan -- I believe that this move will do that.”
However, Democrats on the House Finance Committee argue that the one-time transfer is only a short-term fix.
The state’s Rainy Day Fund has a balance of more than $714 million. In a news release, Nelson said this transfer would still keep the fund’s balance at more than 15 percent of this year’s proposed budget – a key level used by ratings agencies to evaluate the state’s credit rating.
Editor’s Note: An earlier verison of this story incorrectly stated that the transfer of $29 million went to the PEIA Stability Fund. In fact, the funds were transferred to the PEIA Basic Insurance Premium Fund.