Even as the Jindal administration was announcing that it was capitulating to the desires of the attorney general and state legislators to delay implementation of new proposed health coverage plans for state employees and retirees, the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) was quietly issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for actuarial services beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
Greg Cromer (R-Slidell) and John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) asked several times during the hearing the identity of the actuary who recommended three consecutive years of premium reductions in the face of rising health care costs and it wasn’t until the fourth time the question was asked that an answer was forthcoming.
“In fiscal year 2012 there was a 3 percent erosion of the fund balance,” Edwards said. “Yet, in fiscal 2013, there was a 7.11 percent reduction in premiums followed by 1.8 percent even though health care costs were going up by 6 percent. What actuary told you those reductions were sound?”
“Buck Consulting recommended a 2.25 decrease for calendar 2012,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said.
Edwards then asked if Buck Consulting was still under contract to the state.
“That contract is being bid,” Nichols said.
“I would hope so,” Edwards responded.
State records indicate Buck had a $2.1 million contract with OGB to provide actuary and consulting services. That contract ran from Dec. 1, 2009 through Jan. 1, 2012. Additionally, Buck had another $600,000 contract from June 1, 2011, to June 1, 2013, “to assist in advising the Division of Administration with regard to public retirement systems and insurance benefits for public employees, actuarial services” at $250 per hour and per diem payments of $165.
Buck Consultants is a subsidiary of Affiliated Computer Services which in turn was purchased by Xerox in 2009. Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of 6th District Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Bill Cassidy, worked as Regional Vice President of Business Development for ACS and Xerox for nearly four and one-half years before going to work for DOA in December of 2012 as Assistant Commissioner in Procurement and Technology at a salary of $150,000 per year. A search of state contract records in March of 2013 by LouisianaVoice turned up four contracts with ACS totaling $45.55 million.
ACS contributed $10,000 to the campaign of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire and R-Anywhere but Louisiana) in 2003 ($5,000), 2008 ($4,000), and 2009 ($1,000), Jindal’s campaign records show.
LouisianaVoice, in March of 2013, noted several contracts between ACS and other states, cities, and even the federal government which drew sharp criticism over problems experienced by the company as well as questionable contracts in Texas and Alabama.
But ACS wasn’t the only entity in that organization with problems. Buck Consultants was sued by Providence, Rhode Island in 2013 because, the city claimed, Buck miscalculated $700,000 per year in savings the city anticipated through pension reform. Instead, Mayor Angel Taveras said, the cost to the city was expected to be $10.8 million over the next 28 years.
In California, Buck Consultants was also accused of making several mistakes in its actuary for the Mendocino County retirement system, prompting the county to cancel its contract with the firm in March of 2011. Buck Consultants paid the county nearly $600,000 as a settlement of its dispute in September of that same year. http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/ci_17656902
In a case that should sound familiar to OGB members who have been following events since the privatization of the agency, retirees in Stanislaus County, California, in 2009 sued the county retirement board over its decision to shift $60 million in reserves to ease the county’s pension obligations for fiscal year 2009-10. http://www.modbee.com/2009/12/24/984878/retirees-challenge-stancera-over.html
And now OGB “is seeking proposals from actuarial and consulting (actuary) providers for a contract that will allow for benefit design, rate development, RFP scoring, and other analytical and financial support activities for the state health insurance plan,” the RFP says.
The actuary chosen for the contract “will provide methods for, and calculation of, health plan premiums for OGB health plans and other support services.”
So while Kristy Kreme continues to insist that the current plans for OGB do not call for increased premiums, only higher co-pays and deductibles, it’s interesting to note that the contract being sought by OGB certainly leaves the door open for premium adjustments down the road and it isn’t difficult to guess which way those adjustments will go.
The RFP says that OGB projects medical plan expenditures of almost $1.284 billion in fiscal year 2015, which begins next June 1. Of that amount $56.9 million will be in administrative costs, the RFP says, adding that OGB will require “ongoing consulting and assistance with benefit development, rate setting, risk adjustment determinations, financial analysis, analysis of claims and encounters, evaluation of expenditures, budget projections, trend calculations, causes and discovery of trend, evaluation of multiple benefit options, and financial and other reporting requirements as may be necessary to administer” the health plan.
Should Buck Consultants submit a proposal and should it be the low bidder, someone other than Kristy Nichols might wish to talk to the folks in Providence, R.I., Mendocino or Stanislaus counties in California to do a little vetting before a contract is awarded.
This consultant-happy administration has made a horrible mess of things with OGB since 2011. There’s no need to continue down that same road of bad decisions.