The procedure for laying off up to 121 employees of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) has been initiated by the Jindal administration in the aftermath of the privatization of the OGB Preferred Provider Organization (PPO).
A memorandum dated Aug. 23 has been circulated to OGB employees by Steven Procopio of the Office of Human Resources in the Division of Administration setting the effective date of the staff reductions as Jan. 2, 2013.
The layoffs must be approved by the State Civil Service Board but the board on Aug. 1 approved the awarding of the contract for the PPO to Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS) of Louisiana, so the consideration of the layoff proposal should be little more than a formality by the board which has demonstrated a propensity to roll over and play dead for the administration.
BCBS already is the TPA for the state’s HMO.
Positions affected by the termination notice are in Internal Audit, Administration, Quality Assurance, Fiscal, Flexible Benefits/Imaging Services, Legal and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Compliance, Customer Service, Information Technology, Claims and Provider Services.
Employees of these offices are domiciled in the parishes of East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Ouachita, Caddo, Calcasieu and Rapides.
The BCBS assumption of the third party administrator (TPA) duties for the PPO is scheduled to take effect with the beginning of the new calendar year in January.
Gov. Piyush Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater have consistently insisted that the state should not be in the insurance business and that a private entity can administer insurance claims on behalf of state employees more cheaply and more efficiently than the state—despite OGB’s having built reserves of $500 million over the past half-dozen years.
Several independent studies have intimated that premiums are likely to increase after the first year because a private TPA will face the double whammy of the need to show a profit and the requirement to pay taxes on profits—factors the state never had to consider when it administered the claims.
Jindal, who made a point of voicing his concern and respect for state employees when he ran for governor has shown little, if any, of either sentiment since becoming governor. In fact, he has consistently attacked state employees at every turn including the orchestration of failed attempts to dismantle Civil Service and to gut the state employee retirement system—both to the detriment of state workers.
Jindal, after failing to sell state prison facilities, simply closed two of them and then announced the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville without notifying the legislative delegation in that part of the state—a delegation which until then had been fiercely loyal to him.
The closure of the Mandeville facility will adversely affect more than 500 employees and up to 170 inpatient recipients of mental health care. Moreover, with its closure, there will be no state facility offering mental health care for an entire section of the state that includes the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Washington, Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Jefferson.
Other state medical facilities and LSU teaching hospitals also are threatened by the lost of some $800 million in Medicaid funding and higher education also has taken a major hit with near catastrophic budgetary cutbacks.
Yet, as all this economic train wreck careens out of control down the tracks, Jindal continues to travel the country—initially auditioning for the vice presidential nomination on Mitt Romney’s ticket and when that failed, soldiering on as the dutiful lap dog in support of the Republic Party that has relegated him to a minor speaking role at next week’s GOP convention.
Hardly an appropriate token of appreciation, considering all he has done on behalf of his second choice for the nomination while ignoring a state falling apart back home.
The leadership vacuum experienced by Louisiana during this administration is not what one would expect to read of in Jindal’s book Leadership and Crisis, now is it?
The real of the crisis, after all, is his abysmal lack of leadership.
If, as New Orleans’ Gambit so succinctly pointed out, he truly has the job he loves, he should return to Louisiana to address the myriad of problems facing the state and in so doing, put his money (read: efforts) where only his mouth has been.