Below is a copy of a press release issued by LA Verite’ 2015 where they have filed a lawsuit against OGB and the Jindal Administration. RSEA will monitor any developments but is NOT a party to the suit at this time.
LA VERITE’ 2015
7575 Jefferson Highway, Box 35
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
For Immediate Release April 21, 2015
For more information contact
Marilee Cash, tel. 225-262-0012
Dayne Sherman, tel. 985-351-2513
Rebecca McCarter, tel. 225-301-3006
E. M. LaMont, tel. 225-788-5716
or email LA.Verite2015@outlook.com
Group Files Lawsuit Against Office of Group Benefits, Jindal Administration, to Halt Health Insurance Plan Changes
A lawsuit against the state Office of Group Benefits, the Office of the Governor and the state Division of Administration was filed today in the 19th Judicial District (Baton Rouge) by a group of state employees, teachers and retirees, asking the court to overturn changes to OGB’s health plans that took effect March 1.Representing the plaintiffs is J. Arthur Smith III of the Smith Law Firm of Baton Rouge.
The plaintiffs allege that recent changes forced on them by OGB were not enacted under the requirements of state law, and that they were denied the opportunity, as required by the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act, to comment on the proposed changes. The plaintiffs allege that increased costs and decreased benefits pose a financial hardship that limits their access to healthcare services and needed medicines.
After heated protest by affected employees, retirees and legislators, OGB revised plans to an extent, but left in place large increases in out-of-pocket expenses and decreased benefits on all plans, and forced enrollees to choose a plan before holding the required public hearing under the law. Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell issued an opinion in September 2014 that concluded that OGB had violated the LA Administrative Procedure Act and that the proposed plan changes were unenforceable.
Plaintiff Marilee Cash, a retiree, said the goal of the lawsuit is to protect the approximately 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents who have health insurance through the Office of Group Benefits. “Large increases in out-of-pocket expenses, combined with withheld pay increases for active employees and cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, pose a financial hardship for many people covered by OGB,” she said. “Our compensation has not kept up with inflation during Gov. Jindal’s administration, due to mismanagement of state funds and poor fiscal decisions. Before March 1, our healthcare costs and insurance premiums were manageable. Now these increased costs have put healthcare services out of reach for many dedicated public servants and retirees.” The administration has said the changes are needed to preserve the Group Benefits reserve, which has been drastically reduced as the administration reduced premium revenue while paying out medical claims. The fund, created by the premiums paid by those who are insured, stood at about $500 million just two years ago. Less than half remains. The Jindal administration drew down the reserve by reducing the employer contributions in order to save money and balance the state budget.
An association was formed to fund the lawsuit. The association, called LA VERITE’ 2015, is registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State. LA VERITE’ is French for TRUTH, and stands for Louisiana Voices of Employees and Retirees for Insurance Truth and Equity. According to a spokesperson, there are no dues and membership is open to any active or retired state employee, teacher, or other interested individual. Contributions received to date and a large loan from association board members were used to pay the initial costs and filing fees for the lawsuit. Donations by check or money order may be sent to LA VERITE’ 2015, 7575 Jefferson Hwy. #35, Baton Rouge, LA 70806. Electronic donations may be made through PayPal; for instructions on PayPal please email LA.Verite2015@outlook.com
“We formed LA VERITE’ 2015 to fight back against an administration that cares only about political posturing and nothing about Louisiana citizens – even less about public servants,” said spokesperson E.M. LaMont. “Jindal has brought the state almost to the point of bankruptcy, and he is trying to balance the budget on the backs of current and retired state employees who have dedicated their careers to caring for the public good. He has forced us into poorly designed, expensive health plans that we cannot afford – plans that have already begun to keep families of public employees and retirees from having access to affordable insurance and health care.”
“State ethics attorneys have stated that according to Civil Service rules, state employees have the right to participate in activities concerning issues that impact them directly,” LaMont said. “State employees may publicly support or oppose issues other than support of candidates or political parties (Civil Service General Circular Number 2014-021). LA VERITE’ 2015’s effort is legal and ethical. Donations to LA VERITE’ to help fund the OGB lawsuit will be kept confidential. Donations are not tax deductible.”
The plaintiffs in the OGB lawsuit join a fairly lengthy list of groups and individuals that have successfully sued the Jindal administration, alleging they have been subjected to legislation, regulations or harassment ruled to be illegal or unconstitutional.
LA Voices of Employees and Retirees for Insurance Truth andEquity’
LA VERITE’ – French: TRUTH
Speaking Truth to Power
Louisiana Voices of Employees and Retirees for Insurance Truth and Equity
SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER