Despite the fact that the obvious evidence shows contracting out all state health benefits administration in the first year alone would net as much as almost $300 million, and over $75 million each succeeding year, misinformation and conspiracy theories continue concerning this from vested interests against what appears to be a sound move by Louisiana.
The state is only one of two that has a significant amount of benefits administration, a little under 30 percent of its insured population, performed by the state. This occurs through the Office of Group Benefits, a part of the Division of Administration, the agency designed to assist the governor in running matters given to his responsibility under law.
While discussion about this has been going on for a year, with studies done demonstrating the savings, promises made by the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration that contracting out this business, joining the plans covering all other state employees and retirees, would occur only if cost savings would occur as result of an actual contract being in place, and with the legally required oversight of the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget producing consent, the next step has been taken in hiring a firm to work out whether such a contract with a private sector entity can be worked out.
The contract has a base fee, but that increases as much as fivefold if the business gets bid out successfully, naturally enough as it requires more work on behalf of the agent. Yet announcing this arrangement has provided another opportunity for some derangement from transaction critics, often repeating the same discredited arguments or conjuring up impossible conspiracies.
James Lee, who is a state employee designated to represent employees of the Department of Transportation and Development and heads the OGB’s Policy and Planning Board, which advises OGB, ratcheted up the nonsense quotient when he claimed this step, made by those who actually administer OGB, was being done to rush the whole project through, hinting this was aided by the Jindal Administration because at least one of the governor’s appointees had failed to show up at any meeting since August (before which, unanimously, the Board expressed opposition to the contracting), thereby implying that some kind of marching orders had gone out to prevent a quorum that otherwise would permit the Board, which has no policy-making power, to investigate the matter further.
Setting aside for the moment that if even the three gubernatorial appointees – two of which were present and voted in June to oppose – somehow were ordered not to show up even though they have demonstrated full sympathy by that vote for criticizing a deal, and even with three vacancies on the Board (if this is accurate; its information seems dated as the state Senate appointee listed has left office), there’s still one member more than needed for a quorum if all 10 other members show up. In other words, other presumed advocates of Lee’s position haven’t shown up either. Why aren’t these people with self-interest in opposition in attending not there? Why do they get a pass from Lee in explaining his lack of getting a quorum together, and yet Jindal appointees get all the blame?
Lee also demonstrates he would be a poor musician, as he has no sense of time. Now more than a year in the making is said to rush through a decision? One which Lee continues saying, without a shred of proof and what objective analysis out there suggesting exactly the opposite, would create a situation where “active and retired employees of the state will see reduced benefits and the taxpayers will see increased costs.”
He is joined in this absolute blather by former state Sen. Butch Gautreaux, who sat on the Board until he was term-limited out of elective office and now represents an interest group publicly opposed to the transaction. Just as closed-minded as Lee, he repeats the unproven, and directly contradicted, assertion that the agency saves money. Indeed, OGB recently has been accused in court of bureaucratic incompetence in administering the plan in question that resulted in wasted taxpayer resources and aggravated state employees. And he also echoes a conspiratorial outlook, this time saying, using logic to which thinking people are unaccustomed, that reducing the bureaucratic size of OGB assists Jindal in bashing the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act that will increase health care costs while reducing the quality of health care provision.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 13:25