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Numbers point to substantial state insurance plan savings

As some special interests seem unable to understand the logic and math behind it all, this space (as it is wont to do) will bring some clarity to the savings the state will achieve by contracting out the book of health insurance business it current self-ensures, and where the process is headed.

A Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration met with Louisiana’s State Civil Service Commission yesterday to give an update on where the effort is headed. The decision has been made to get the state out of the business of running its own plan, which only one other state does, impacting the roughly one-quarter of state employees and retirees and their families who choose what is called the Preferred Provider Organization plan. As the latest statistics show that over half of the money spent by the state agency administrator Office of Group Benefits goes to running this plan, logically savings should result if run more efficiently by the private sector as with other state plans (and, because PPO rates are higher for the same service provided and there’s a taxpayer match, this could save clients and taxpayers an estimated $55 million above and beyond savings in administrative costs).

The procedure to implement requires that a request for proposal go out soon, followed by a contract letting anticipated in June. The Jindal Administration may hope to catch the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget while the Legislature remains in session (until Jun. 4), which would have to approve of a contract of this size in the millions of dollars (even as the state can expect a one-time gain much higher than an annual contract by making available to a private entity the right to do this business.) This assumes (pretty safely) that a bidder will come in below the current rate structure.


LSUS growth, service plan should eliminate merger talk

While its motives for doing so might be suspected, the Louisiana State University System came up with a plan that should be enough to head off any talk of it losing one of its member institutions by a proposed merger of Louisiana State University Shreveport and Louisiana Tech.

Perhaps a week before one or both bills to authorize this merger were due to get discussed in legislative committee, the document outlines, with some specificity, the kinds of things the system said it do would do in order to dispel the most potent complaint merger supporters had forwarded: that the system insufficiently had enabled LSUS to become capable of meeting higher educational needs in the state’s third-largest metropolitan area. The plan calls for new degree programs and certificate offerings, some based on campus, some in collaboration with other system members, increased cooperation with area schools and great expansion of its paltry online course offerings, and other administrative changes designed to boost enrollments and provision.


Questionable fee bill provides Jindal with interesting test

Gov. Bobby Jindal may have an interesting call ahead on a pair of bills that might put to the test his avowed anti-tax, but pro-fee (when demonstrated as necessary to cover costs) position regarding government revenues.

In his fifth year in office, Jindal staunchly had headed off every tax increase of any kind where he had the power to do so – even if it was a new tax right after the same one expired. His attitude on government increases in fees has been different, not opposing them when he saw convincing evidence that they were to cover the cost of government doing that business – even when legislative majorities were displeased with the fee increase. He has done so both through the formal instruments of his office such as signing or vetoing legislation, and through informal means such as letting out the word that he would veto something objectionable, which would be enough to stop it from advancing any further in the legislative process.

Now, SB 361 and SB 630 present potential hard cases for him. The bills, the former applying to Orleans Parish, the latter to St. Bernard Parish, would raise fees on telephone lines, both land and mobile, ostensibly to fund 911 emergency services in those parishes. They would force operators to tack on even more in fees onto their bills, expanding their roles as fee collectors for local governments, although voters in St. Bernard would have the option of defeating in a referendum their hike. Author J.-P. Morrell in offering these is following the common practice of passing through what serves as a sales tax by a local government but, by putting a private entity as an intermediary, deflecting constituent attention away from that.


Two papers in one illustrate legacy media's problems

If we needed any reminder of the self-inflicted troubles of the legacy media, one Louisiana media outlet recently provided a perfect example of this, with the example drawing upon an asinine decision made in Congress.

On Mar. 30, the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a story about the conclusions drawn by the Senate Ethics Committee concerning Republican Sen. David Vitter. Some months ago, Vitter had refused to go along with a salary increase for Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, on the basis that he was performing a bad job in choking off oil drilling for political reasons. A vote had to be held for Salazar to have an increase because the Democrat had resigned a Senate seat to take the job, meaning he could not have any salary increase in the executive branch beyond the Cabinet salary at the time of his resignation until his term would have ended, given the Constitution and related legislation.

The Senate allows broad latitude to its members in personnel matters, this known variously as “committee clearance,” “senatorial courtesy,” “blue slip,” “hold,” etc., where the objection of a single senator in essence can veto the action of the entire Senate. It not uncommonly is used to prevent an appointment until a senator extracts a policy promise from an appointee. Vitter’s use appeared novel, in part because the statute enabling this subsequent raise had been passed as a special case only in 2008. A few months after his hold, he announced he would not continue to block it.