Prognosis for insurance task force’s work is to submit recommendations by this fall

Judging by its vitals, the PEIA Task force is alive and well.

All its signs point to functions that look to be life sustaining, for now.

This week, perhaps the most critical of the task force’s three subcommittees — cost and revenue — met for the first time.

That panel is charged with shoring up the heath insurance program’s finances to ensure the plan’s benefits.

No easy task when medical and pharmaceutical costs are inching up by 5 percent to 6 percent each year.

Or that any plans to cut costs by cutting benefits will cause an outbreak of protests or worse.

As for raising revenue, our state’s legislators would probably rather vote for gun control than vote for new taxes to cover PEIA’s rising costs.

Meanwhile, the Public Employees Insurance Agency Task Force’s public outreach subcommittee kicked off a series of public hearings this month.

In total, hearings are scheduled in 21 locations and wrap up June 11. One is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. June 8 in Morgantown, at WVU. The exact location is yet to be determined.

We suspect that subcommittee’s task will be none too simple, either. If the noise level at the state Capitol this year was any indication, this group is getting an earful.

No one expects to hear the experiences of all 220,000 West Virginians covered by PEIA at these hearings. But even a modest sampling of their sentiments should be plenty.

The task force’s third subcommittee — coverage and plan — is scheduled to meet for the first time next week.

Obviously, this panel will be delving into the nuts and bolts of this insurance plan to determine how it can be made more efficient.

The magic number that keeps coming up to sustain this plan is an additional $40 million to $50 million yearly.

As one might assume, over the long haul such rising costs for PEIA, or anything, could conceivably overtake the state’s budget barring any changes.

Of course, complications arising from health care insurance are facing government at all levels, as well as private employers, and will require major changes.

The task force was charged by the governor with submitting its recommendations by December. However, some have called for the proposals to be complete by fall.

That’s when PEIA’s Finance Board will be looking to put together the benefits package and their costs for 2019-’20 plan year.

We’re skeptical that this board or legislators can find

$50 million in cost reductions yearly without slashing benefits. The alternative is to dedicate a new source of revenue for PEIA. We’re unsure how lawmakers will respond to that necessity in an election year.

But there’s never been a better time to examine them closely on this issue than before Nov. 6.

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