PEIA sees jump in claims after uncertainty over benefits

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PEIA sees jump in claims after uncertainty over benefits
By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail

The Public Employees Insurance Agency is seeing a $21 million jump in medical claims, which officials hope is a “run on benefits” by insurees who were uncertain about whether the West Virginia Legislature would fully fund the health insurance program.

“We’re hoping we’re seeing a blip, and not an emerging trend,” Chief Financial Officer Jason Haught told the PEIA Finance Board on Thursday.

Medical claim expenses jumped from a projected 6.5 percent increase to a 10 percent spike between December 2015 and this past June, while PEIA’s budget was in doubt for much of that time, he said.

During that period, $120 million of benefit cuts, in the form of sharply higher co-pays and deductibles, were looming for PEIA insurees, as of this July 1, and Haught said he suspects many insurees sought out medical procedures prior to the potential cuts.

“While the state was going through the process of getting its budget passed, we had significant benefit cuts on the table,” he noted.

Haught said he suspects that led to a “run on benefits” by members, comparable to a run on banks before an economic depression.

“I’m hoping that’s what happened,” he said, “that we’ve seen our membership react to the impending cuts on the table, and that has increased utilization of medical services.”

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