Long-term fix needed for PEIA

Like so many of the rest of us, state employees in West Virginia have had it up to here with rising health insurance costs. Their anger at Public Employees Insurance Agency officials is misplaced, however.

PEIA officials are virtually helpless to hold health care costs, on which insurance benefits and premiums are based, in check.

One strategy they had hoped to try was a wellness program in which PEIA enrollees could receive incentives for participating — but also would pay slightly higher premiums for not doing so.

That aroused such fury among some public employees that Gov. Jim Justice talked PEIA officials into making participation entirely voluntary.

Then, with the support of legislators, he took another step to placate teachers who had threatened to go on strike in part because of a planned PEIA premium increase later this year.

There will be no increase, at least for 17 months, Justice said. State government will find $29 million to offset loss of higher premiums to the PEIA.

West Virginia taxpayers already provide enormous subsidies to the PEIA, of $422 million a year, the last we checked.

One cannot blame public employees for being upset about PEIA premium increases and benefit cuts.

One cannot blame taxpayers for wondering when they will stop having to dig deeper into their own pockets to support the PEIA will end, either.

The vicious cycle needs to end. Justice and legislators should consider it their top priority for the coming year to find a long-term solution.