A struggle between the Jindal administration and lawmakers over the possible privatization of a state health insurance plan sparked the rare issuance of a legislative subpoena Wednesday.
Thwarted in their efforts to get a financial assessment of the Office of Group Benefits, members of a state Senate panel voted in favor of subpoenaing the Jindal administration for the Chaffe and Associates Inc. document.
The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee gave the administration 24 hours to produce the report.
The Chaffe and Associates Inc. document is thought to delve into how much it would be worth to the state to hire a private company to run one of the office’s health plans, legislators say.
The Jindal administration apparently commissioned the report amid preparations of paying a private company to handle a health plan that insures more than 60,000 people. Nearly 150 state workers stand to lose their jobs under the outsourcing. Jindal has argued that the state agency handling the services costs too much.
The Office of Group Benefits provides health and life insurance to about a quarter-million current and retired state workers and their dependents.
Drama has surrounded the office since the Jindal administration began talking about a possible privatization.
Some legislators are concerned that the privatization is an attempt to free up the office’s substantial surplus. The Jindal administration contends outsourcing will produce an upfront infusion of cash for the state as well as save money.
Earlier this year, Jindal fired the office’s chief executive officer, Tommy Teague. Teague’s replacement, Scott Kipper, recently tendered his resignation after less than two months on the job following a contentious confirmation hearing that largely focused on the report at the heart of the subpoena.
Kipper told the state Senate and Governmental Affairs committee last week that he had not seen the Chaffe and Associates report.
Legislators said they were disturbed that Kipper had not seen the report.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater told legislators that Kipper did not need to see the report because it validated the administration’s thoughts on the office’s book of business.
Kipper subsequently tendered his resignation.
State Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, asked during the confirmation hearing for a copy of the report.
She said Wednesday that she has yet to get it.
“I want to see what it says,” said committee member state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.
Rainwater said Wednesday that he gave the report to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.
He said the legislative auditor is an arm of the Legislature.
Rainwater said he would be happy to discuss the report with the committee out of the public’s hearing.
“I’m not trying to hide anything,” Rainwater said. “I’m just trying to protect the interest of the state.”
Purpera said he cannot allow legislators to see his copy of the report because it is part of an audit of the Office of Group Benefits.
“In my hand, it’s work paper,” Purpera said.
State Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, joined Peterson, Murray and state Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport, in filing Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 70 to direct the Jindal administration to immediately release the report.
The Senate voted 21-0 Wednesday in favor of adopting the resolution.