Insurance plan

Alabama Educators’ Health Insurance Plan seeks U.S. bailout funds for COVID-19 costs

Alabama’s Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan is asking lawmakers for a share of the state’s remaining federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act to cover the cost of medical expenses from the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

PEEHIP wrote letters to legislative budget presidents in August asking for $84 million for ARPA, a pandemic relief bill passed by Congress last year.

The state received $2 billion from ARPA in two equal shares. In January, lawmakers approved a first-half spending plan, leaving another $1 billion to be appropriated.

The request for ARPA money is not PEEHIP’s first. In January, PEEHIP requested $57 million for COVID-19-related costs from March 2021 to December 2021. The Legislative Assembly did not approve this.

The $84 million is an updated request covering expenses related to COVID-19 from March 2021 to July 2022. This includes the cost of testing, diagnosis and treatment of the virus, as well as vaccinations.

Today, PEEHIP’s Chief Financial Officer, Diane Scott, gave a presentation on COVID costs and other issues at a meeting of the PEEHIP Board of Control.

Overall, PEEHIP’s COVID-19 costs from the start of the pandemic through July were approximately $131 million. The insurance program received $29 million from a previous federal COVID package, the CARES Act.

Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House General Fund Budget Committee, said PEEHIP’s request for ARPA funds would be given serious consideration, but said it was too early to say whether he expected her to be approved.

“There’s a whole list of requests,” Clouse said. “It will definitely be a high priority.”

The Legislative Assembly will not meet in regular session until March. Clouse said he expects a special session on ARPA funds between the inauguration in January and the regular session.

Congress has granted states some flexibility on how they can use ARPA funds. The Alabama Legislature allocated $400 million from the first half of the state’s ARPA to help build new prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties. Other parts have been allocated to the expansion of broadband internet access, water and sewage projects, the state unemployment compensation trust fund, hospitals and care homes nursing, and for other purposes.

In addition to the request for ARPA funds, Scott said that PEEHIP is maintaining its request for funding at the Legislature level for the eighth consecutive year, at $800 per month, per active employee. That would be for the 2024 fiscal year, which begins October 1, 2023, and would total approximately $967 million.

Scott showed the PEEHIP board of directors a projection that indicated the program could require an increase of up to $853 per employee per month in fiscal year 2025. She said that if the Legislative Assembly approves the demand of ARPA, it is less likely that an increase will be needed in 2025.