Don't sell the Office of Group Benefits!
Despite an outcry from thousands of public servants, Governor Bobby Jindal seems determined to sell the State Office of Group Benefits to a private company. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell put a temporary halt to the scheme on September 14, issuing an opinion that the sale cannot go forward without a vote of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
Let’s tell the committee to put the brakes on Jindal’s ill-advised contrivance.
Just to refresh your memory about this issue:
The Office of Group Benefits, or OGB, manages the health insurance of some 60,000 current and retired public employees, including teachers and school employees in a number of school systems. It is one of the best-run and scandal-free operations in state government. In fact, it has built up a surplus of some $500 million over the past few years.
The governor wants to sell OGB’s Preferred Provider Organization to a private provider. He claims that privatizing the office would save the state money. But according to reports, the OGB currently spends only about three percent of its income on management costs. The same costs for a private company could be in the 10% to 15% range.
Privatizing the office would probably not save money for the state, but it would eliminate the jobs of 177 public servants, putting even more Louisiana citizens in the unemployment line. These employees, who are the personal contact points for people in need, could be replaced by telephone call centers anywhere in the world.
According to former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux, who chaired the Senate Insurance Committee, the sale could result in higher costs and reduced benefits for consumers, with no savings for the state.
During the 2012 legislative session, the issue was never debated by any of the legislative committees, and it never came up on the floor of either the Senate or the House. Nonetheless, at Jindal’s urging the State Civil Service Commission in August narrowly approved privatizing OGB.
Thanks to Rep. Katrina Jackson of Monroe, who requested the opinion from the attorney general’s office, we have one more chance to block Jindal’s plan. The Joint Budget Committee must vote to allow the sale. The committee is expected to take this vote at a meeting in October. Please sign the petition and let the committee know that you OPPOSE privatizing the Office of Group Benefits.