Retain Wellness Initiative at PEIA

Providing incentives for people to keep themselves healthier is an excellent way of holding down health insurance costs. Doing so is an absolute necessity for the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency, which covers tens of thousands of active and retired state workers, including teachers.

But PEIA officials are under fire for doing just that. Specifically, a “wellness” initiative is drawing fire. Some of it is coming from the state Legislature.

“We have some pretty doggone unhappy state employees,” in a large measure because of the new policy, House of Delegates member Marty Gearhart, R-Mercer, said of the program.

Here’s how it works: PEIA enrollees who take action such as completing health assessments, participating in health lifestyle and fitness programs, etc., can earn points. If they build up enough, they can receive financial incentives.

But if they do not earn enough points, their premiums increase by $25 a month and their deductibles go up by $500.

Many state employees are “hot and bothered” about that, Gearhart told PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham.

The alternative, of course, is to increase premiums and deductibles for everyone to help cover the cost of PEIA enrollees whose health could be better if they would take advantage of the program.

Officials were right to have established the program. They should stick with it for both the financial and physical well-being of the vast majority of PEIA enrollees.