Once again, the Jindal administration resorts to peddling distortion and disinformation rather than coming clean with the truth. This time we’re writing about the coming increased health care costs to state employees and retirees insured through the Office of Group Benefits.
The guest column by Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols in The Advocate on Sept. 4 is a jewel of half-truths, omissions and obfuscation. Nichols claims that OGB members can expect better benefits at lower costs.
The full truth is these changes will raise the health insurance costs for 232,000 state employees, retirees and dependents in the form of higher deductibles, higher co-payments and higher out-of-pocket maximums. The new scheme also eliminates “out of network” payments; if you’re forced to use a provider outside the plan, you pay the entire cost.
Nichols claims OGB is keeping its current plans. In fact, the administration’s changes to existing plans makes them unrecognizable.
Nichols is right about one point: some plan members will save money under this new scheme. What she doesn’t say is those are the families who seldom visit doctors, don’t get sick and don’t find themselves in the hospital dealing with an unforeseen medical emergency.
Thanks to Jindal’s unwise cuts to premiums — made to help balance the state budget —- the one-time $540 million cushion at OGB has dwindled to $221 million this year. Without any plan changes, that is projected to crash to less than $5.6 million next year.
Facing the predictable result of slashing income as costs continue to rise, the Jindal administration decided to balance OGB’s books on the backs of state employees and retirees.
Not only are the OGB plans facing major and expensive changes, the Jindal administration has done a poor job of communicating the new reality to workers, retirees and their families. The administration has dribbled out some information to plan members that’s typically full of omissions and inaccuracies. OGB members must select from the new plans next month, but the state website with the information and benefit calculator they need isn’t ready.
While the Jindal administration continues to pump out disinformation that appears aimed at promoting the governor’s personal political agenda, we relied on the nonpartisan analysis of the experts at the Legislative Fiscal Office.
That analysis — using OGB’s own data — shows that the average annual costs to plan members may increase by 47 percent from $3,533 to $5,187. Small state subsidies under two of the new plans will offset some of that increase but those plans, the analysis shows, provide significantly lower benefits.
The Jindal administration needs to come clean with the people of Louisiana and find another way to fix the OGB crisis they created. They must make that a fix that doesn’t burden our workers, retirees and their families.
state representative, District 101