The head of the state employee health insurance program is quitting after two months on the job.
Scott Kipper’s resignation from the Office of Group Benefits follows the firing earlier this year of the agency’s previous CEO, Tommy Teague.
The shakeups come amid the Jindal administration’s controversial plan to privatize one of the agency’s health plans and lay off more than 100 state workers. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said the office employs far too many state workers and can be operated more cheaply.
Kipper, 54, did not respond to two requests for comment. His resignation is effective June 24, a day after the Legislature adjourns its 2011 regular session.
The Office of Group Benefits provides health and life insurance to about a quarter-million current and retired state workers and their dependents.
The Jindal administration is contemplating asking a private company to oversee one of the agency’s health plans. The proposal has met with resistance in the Legislature.
Kipper resigned just a few days after sparring with legislators in his confirmation hearing over a report by Chaffe and Associates on the planned privatization. He denied knowing the report, which was paid for by the Jindal administration, existed.
“I know that many of the members … felt the information he provided wasn’t entirely accurate,” state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, said Monday.
Murray said Kipper was asked to return for a second hearing. The hearings factor into whether job appointments are confirmed by the Senate.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, who oversees the daily operations of state government, said he was pleased with Kipper’s work performance, including his handling of often contentious meetings with legislators.
He characterized the resignation as unfortunate.
“Scott decided to resign. It was his decision,” Rainwater said.
He said Kipper did not find the job to be what he thought it would be.
State Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City and chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee, said he believes Kipper was troubled by the administration’s handling of the privatization.
“I think he was having a moral dilemma,” Gautreaux said.
At issue is a report performed for the Jindal administration by the New Orleans firm Chaffe and Associates.
Legislators want to see what the report says about the benefits of turning over the operations of one of the agency’s health insurance plans to a private company. The Advocate also filed a public records request in April asking to see the documents.
Rainwater said he is concerned that releasing the report could give potential bidders an upper hand.
Gautreaux contends Kipper was told by the administration not to honor a promise to give the report to legislators. He said he believes the report advises against the privatization.
The administration tapped Kipper in April to replace Teague without offering any explanation for Teague’s firing.
Teague later told legislators at a public meeting that he did not understand the administration’s rationale for wanting to turn over one of the state employee health insurance plans to a private company.
He questioned how the state would benefit from the proposal.
Some of the office’s health plans already are outsourced to the private sector. The preferred provider organization is not and insures more than 60,000 people.
A PPO is a group of doctors, hospitals and others providing health care to subscribers at reduced rates.
The Jindal administration wants to privatize the PPO.
Rainwater said Kipper’s resignation will not halt the planned privatization.
The proposal is thrusting the Office of Group Benefits into the spotlight during the session.
Lawmakers and others contend that the office is efficiently and cheaply managing the health care of thousands of state employees, retirees and dependents.
They are concerned that premiums will rise and services will suffer under the supervision of a private company.