Letter: Group Benefits raided after privatization

As a veteran, I was so disturbed by what the federal Veterans Affairs was doing to our veterans’ health benefits.

Now, on the state level, a similar situation has happened to our 250,000 families with state Group Benefits by this administration in Baton Rouge. This group of state workers, teachers and retirees paid premiums to build up a $500 million health care trust fund. According to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, this same trust fund will be gone by 2015.

How did an insurance program for over 250,000 people and their families get to this low of a level? In June 2011, the Jindal administration started talking about privatizing the Office of Group Benefits. The state auditor said at that time the privatization could cause higher insurance premiums.

The Jindal administration announced in July 2012 that Blue Cross and Blue Shield was chosen to run the Office of Group Benefits at the whopping cost of $37.8 million per year!

The Attorney General’s Office said before privatization could go into effect, the legislators had to approve it. The Appropriations Committee, by a 16-10 vote (after two members were removed from the committee and two new ones who would vote for it were put in), approved privatization; the Senate Finance Committee voted 10-3, and the Jindal administration had won. State Group Benefits was privatized.

After privatization of the Office of Group Benefits, health benefits are being cut, premiums are being raised and the $500 million trust fund has been raided. They gave a 1.5 percent pay increase to retirees that starts in July, and the same month a 5 percent rate increase on insurance premiums, at a loss of 3.5 percent for the year.

This Jindal administration should be held accountable as to where the $500 million trust fund went. Workers worked so hard to build this up, and it’s nearly gone after two years with higher rates and less benefits to the 250,000 families insured. This is a shame, and someone needs to be held accountable.

James David Cain

former state senator

Dry Creek