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Deadline to avoid PEIA deductible increase coming up

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Deadline to avoid PEIA deductible increase coming up
By Phil Kabler, Staff writer, Charleston Gazette

After years of offering proverbial carrots, the Public Employees Insurance Agency is using a stick approach to get members more involved in taking care of their health: Non-compliers will have their medical deductible increased by $500 a year.

“This is the wakeup call to say to people, you’ve got to be accountable,” PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham said.

With the first deadline less than three weeks away, response to PEIA’s “Healthy Tomorrows” program appears to be strong, Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said Tuesday.

With a May 15 deadline to complete the first tier of the three-year program — designating a primary care physician — about 20 percent of the more than 200,000 PEIA members have filed those disclosures electronically.

However, Holley-Brown said PEIA offices have been flooded with an “overwhelming number” of paper forms sent in the mail.

“We have many, many boxes of forms to enter into the system,” she said.

Holley-Brown said PEIA has been getting the word out about the deadline, with notice in the newsletter sent to insurees, and a follow-up email sent to all state employees on Monday.

By May 15, PEIA members simply have to designate their primary care physician to avoid the $500 penalty.

Members will have to provide PEIA with some basic health measures — including blood pressure, blood sugar, total cholesterol, and waist size — by May 15 of next year.

And by May 15, 2017, members will have to have those numbers (except for waist size) within acceptable ranges, or submit a doctor’s statement explaining why those thresholds could not be met, to avoid the penalty deductible.

Cheatham said PEIA decided to take the new approach after years of offering wellness, weight management and fitness options that did not draw desired levels of participation.

“All we want is for everybody to know their numbers, and do something about them,” he said.

There have been some questions and complaints about why the information is needed, but Cheatham said the number of complaints has been relatively small for an insurance plan of PEIA’s size.

“We’re not getting a lot of pushback,” he said.

Last week, members of the PEIA Finance Board were informed that the plan is running a $145 million funding deficit, which will likely require premium increases, or sharp cuts in benefits, or a combination of both, which would take effect July 1, 2016.

For more information, call PEIA at 304-558-7850.