‘We’ll only move forward if it makes sense.”
That promise might seem a modest one from Gov. Bobby Jindal, but in the heated — and sometimes politicized — atmosphere over the proposed private administration of some state insurance plans, we welcome that promise.
If there is a chance for a “reset” button on this issue, it is in full disclosure of the benefits or potential downsides of the privatization.
Jindal’s argument is not an unreasonable one: If Louisiana is already using private administrators for some parts of its group benefits plans, why not do it for all of them? Louisiana is almost the only state not to have contracted out that kind of work.
But the criticism has been fierce, as some employees would lose their state jobs — in an agency generally considered to be doing a good job. The savings in the budget would be about $10 million a year, the Division of Administration earlier said, but there could be an upfront payment from the insurer winning the contract — and the state is short of cash.
Sometimes, in the Jindal administration, one is tempted to say that the state motto should be changed from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to “Never Explain.” An earlier report on the downsides — including possible premium increases — was disgorged by the administration only after the Legislature sought it through a subpoena.
Way to win friends and influence people.
The consultant report said premiums would increase under private management — but it also noted, as everyone in this debate should acknowledge, that premiums are going to increase anyway. That’s a problem with health insurance for everyone in America, not just the employees and retirees insured by the Office of Group Benefits in Louisiana.
If the governor’s promise means anything, it is not that everyone will agree with his ultimate decision, assuming it is approved later by the Legislature’s Budget Committee. Rather, it is that he will lay all the cards on the table and show how it makes sense.
The board that oversees the Office of Group Benefits called for “a clear and concise explanation of the reasons for the proposed privatization and why such action would be in the best interests of the State of Louisiana.”
That doesn’t seem much to ask for. And for the governor’s promise to mean anything, he’ll have to show some clarity, even if not an uncharacteristic conciseness.