A group of current and retired state employees allege the Jindal administration did not follow the rules when it altered their health insurance plans.
The group incorporated under the name La Verite 2015, has an attorney lined up and is raising money to fund the legal action, organizer Marilee Cash said Monday.
La Verite is French for “truth.”
“It is due to Bobby Jindal’s making changes in the Office of Group Benefits,” Cash said. “It was done without following the requirements (of law).”
“We are hopeful that we will be able to get the Office of Group Benefits back where it needs to be to protect the employees and retirees from future shenanigans the governor’s office might try to pull,” said Cash, a retired state employee.
About 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents have health insurance through the program.
The law that Cash said Group Benefits did not comply with is known as the Administrative Procedures Act. The act sets out an approval process including publication of the changes, public hearings, opportunity for written comment and legislative hearings. Group Benefits originally proceeded with benefit plan structure changes without going through the process and initially claimed it was not required.
Responding to a request by state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, for a legal interpretation the attorney general opined that the Jindal administration did not meet the legal requirement to implement the changes. The attorney general also said rules unlawfully adopted are invalid and unenforceable.
The administration then began following the administrative procedures act.
After criticism from legislative and Group Benefits members rained down, the Jindal administration altered its initial plans to provide some relief for retirees. But less was done to help active employees.
The new plan, which goes into effect March 1, reduces out-of-pocket expenses in exchange for higher premiums. Premiums could go up nearly 11 percent increase in insurance premiums beginning July 1.
The administration said the changes were needed to shore up Group Benefits finances. A $500 million reserve fund some two years ago now stands ate less than half that as medical claims outpaced revenues coming in. During the time period, the administration also reduced premiums — meaning there was less money coming in.
Cash said the Jindal changes were done to save the state money because it reduced the employer portion of the premium at a time when he was trying to balance the budget. The state and school boards generally pay 75 percent of the premium cost. “It really penalized employees,” she said.
La Verite has a goal of $8,500 to cover attorney fees and court filings, Cash said. Already $800 has been raised just by word of mouth, she said.
The group has a mail box at 7575 Jefferson Hwy., No. 35, in Baton Rouge. Other information may be obtained at LA.Verite2015@outlook.com.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/