Author – Julia O’Donoghue, NOLA.com
The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing and take public testimony Sept. 25 at 10 a.m. on the controversial changes coming to state workers’ health care benefits.
Personnel from the Office of Group Benefits — which manages the health care plans in question — will be present to take questions from elected officials. Any House member, not just those who are on Appropriations, will be able to participate in the meeting.
State workers enrolled in Office of Group Benefits health insurance will see the new options for next year’s coverage for the first time Sept. 15. They will start enrolling in plans Oct. 1, six days after the hearing takes place.
Louisiana’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office predicts that as many as 230,000 state workers, retirees and their dependents will be paying an average of 47 percent more out of pocket for their health care benefits starting in January. The new plans offered to state workers also won’t cover as many procedures and as much treatment as they do currently.
Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s administration has disputed the fiscal office’s projections about health care plan increases. But State Treasurer John Kennedy and some state legislators blame the Jindal administration for the negative changes to state workers health care benefits.
The Jindal administration had lowered health care premiums for state employees by nine percent over the last two years, which has accelerated the depletion of a state employee health care trust fund that helps pay for coverage. The lower premiums saved state agencies money at a time when Jindal officials needed to find ways to contain Louisiana’s government spending.
The governor’s staff has said in the past Jindal is not responsible for the coming changes to state workers’ health care benefits. Health care costs are going up for almost everyone across the country.