The legislative drive continued Monday for more oversight of the state program that provides health insurance for some 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents.
The Senate Finance Committee approved a measure reacting to the Jindal administration’s management of the state Office of Group Benefits. The insurance program’s reserves went from a healthy $500 million plus to less than half that in two recent years. During the time, the administration reduce premiums by some 10 percent while medical claims continued to climb. That led to a program revamp and double digit increases in insurance costs.
The Senate bill changes the makeup of the Group Benefits Policy and Planning Board. The board would be reduced from 15 to 11 members with a majority appointed by the Legislature. The board would review and make recommendations concerning changes in insurance premiums and benefit programs offered by Group Benefits. Proposed changes then would go to the Legislature’s oversight committees for approval.
Premium increases impact not only enrollees but government coffers. State government and school boards generally pay 75 percent of the premiums.
Senate Bill 260 would also create a Group Benefits Estimating Conference which would develop official information relating to group health and life insurance planning, premium rates, and budgeting. The commissioner of administration would have to rely on the information generated in development of premium rates. The panel would be comprised of a variety of people with “fiscal expertise” in the area.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who handled the bill in committee.
“There are a lot of state employees and teachers to who we owe more attention to this particular aspect of government,” Claitor said.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor for debate.
Different legislation with the same expanded oversight goal cleared a House committee last week.