Speed was of the essence for state administrators.
But the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee refused Friday to be hurried and put off a vote on a proposal that would double monthly life insurance premiums for elderly state government retirees.
Come Dec. 31, the term life insurance policies offered to 44,000 retires and 22,000 state employees will expire.
The initial rates, which came out in mid October, sought 800 percent increases in monthly premiums. Nearly every lawmaker talked Friday about the deluge of calls they received from angry constituents.
State officials were closeted behind closed doors Monday trying to find a way to keep monthly life insurance rates from dramatically rising fo…
The Office of Group Benefits last week rushed to find better prices by offering to accept contracts under various rate structures. The proposals were received Monday, vetted and passed through the process during the week.
The final step was Friday when the Senate Finance committee and the House Appropriations committee were asked to give their final seal approval on the deal.
Louisiana legislators will be asked Friday morning to approve doubling the cost of life insurance, starting Jan. 1, for most retired state workers.
The new contract OGB wanted the Legislature to approve, offered term life insurance policies for 2018 at more than double 2017 prices. But that’s less than what employees would have to pay if they bought life insurance on the open market and a whole less than rates forwarded in October.
Tommy Teague, chief executive officer at the Office of Group Benefits, said the letters to policyholders quoting the new rates already have been printed and were waiting for the vote before going into the mail.
Senate Finance complained about the impact of higher rates on pensioners living on fixed incomes.
“It’s not fair to the oldest citizens,” said state Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi. “You’re taking advantage of them because they have no alternative but to pay the higher rates.”
Still, Senate Finance voted without objection to accept the new terms.
Teague then hustled across the State Capitol to meet with House Appropriations Committee.
Some legislators were annoyed that Teague waited so long when he suspected back in April, based on the losses the company providing the insurance had suffered, that the rates likely would go up.
“I’m very disappointed,” said state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe. “We’re being asked to vote on increases for our constituents, for our local governments, and to do so immediately.”
Since policyholders only pay half the premium, higher rates means government agencies are going pay about $4 million more, which will need to be found in budgets that began in July.
“It’s not good for us to vote on something on Friday, have our constituents receive a letter on Tuesday telling what their new rates were before they have a chance to give feedback to us,” said Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie. “We were all caught off guard.”
Henry said the panel would vote “sometime in the future” but is cognizant that postponing too long would mean no life insurance for any state employee or retiree.
Teague wanted a quick decision because the state needs to integrate the new information into the payroll and pensions systems. The policies expire on Dec. 31 and the state is legally bound to offer term life insurance to its employees.
Prudential Financial won the bid with a 141 percent increase.
In 2017, everybody paid $1.029 per thousand dollars of coverage. In 2018, the rates proposed in the latest contract are graduated by age: $2.48 per thousand dollars of coverage for those 66 years and older; 8 cents for those less than 30 years old; 16 cents for state workers between the ages of 31 and 45, for instance.
Since the government employer pays half of the premium that works out to about $31 per month for someone over the age of 65 buying a $25,000 term life insurance policy. That same policy would cost a state worker under the age of 30 about $1 per month.
In 2017, both would have paid $12.86 under the same scenario.
“We are hopeful that they will reconvene, reconsider and approve the contract,” Teague said after the hearing.