He may be gone but he’s certainly not forgotten.
Bobby Jindal, who did his dead level best to destroy the Office of Group Benefits, is now doing his best to take advantage of the agency for his health insurance.
Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that OGB Director Susan West went a little ballistic over our post of Thursday (March 3), even saying we didn’t know what we were talking about. But…but, Susan, we were only quoting from the letter that was sent out with your office’s letterhead on it (admittedly, your name, conveniently, was nowhere in the letter).
The person who contacted initially and a second person who contacted us on Friday (March 4) each said that West directed OGB’s fiscal office to ignore the “pay flags” which indicate non-payment of premiums. (In our story, we called them “stop flags,” but we’re told the correct term is “pay flags.)
Now, of course, OGB is scrambling to recoup all the money (at least $10,511 in a single case we have verified) it paid out in claims for employees and retirees who have either switched to other plans or for whatever reason, ceased paying premiums.
LouisianaVoice has learned that Jindal and family had an HMO plan but that he wanted to change to OGB coverage under COBRA, specifically, a health savings account (HSA). Changing a plan is strictly forbidden except during open enrollment which is in October. But the rules, you see, don’t apply to Jindal; they never have. (Perhaps he learned that trick from State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson who almost got away with getting the legislature to approve an amendment to an obscure bill on the final day of the 2014 session that would’ve given him an illegal $55,000 bump in his retirement pay.)
And let’s not forget that Jindal, after attempting and failing to dismantle LASERS, the retirement system for state employees, quietly purchased time from the system to enhance his own retirement. (Never let it be said that he is lacking in duplicity and cunning.)
No matter. OGB management obligingly approved the switch to the HSA which features low premiums and higher deductibles—basically a major medical-type policy that most people can’t afford. Our source described it as “the Bill Cassidy answer to ObamaCare—sock away a minimum of $10,000 in an HSA and use that for regular medical expenses, except most people don’t have $10,000 to put away and tie up for healthcare alone.”
Not only did Jindal and OGB management skirt the law in changing Jindal’s plan mid-stream, but Jindal also purchased a flexible spending account (FSA). FSAs are highly-regulated by the federal government (which should have gone against Jindal’s very fiber, considering his opposition to everything federal during his term of office). Up to $2,400 a year may be put into an FSA account for a specific purpose such as healthcare expenses or dependent care costs such as daycare. The $2400 is tax deductible so the policy holder saves a bit on state and federal taxes and gives the policy holder free use of the money for the specified purposes.
For state employees, FSA accounts are administered by Discovery Benefits and Jindal, apparently without the sage advice of sidekick Timmy Teepell, submitted his checks for his FSA incorrectly for his COBRA policy, causing “a lot of heartburn” at OGB.
“Discovery Benefits, Inc., is beyond inefficient and impossible to work with,” our source, a retired state employee, said. “There have been many complaints about DBI, including from a state legislator who is outraged over the mess the company has made of her account.
“I made a formal complaint to OGB over DBI’s lack of acceptance of documentation of my dentist’s care, having sent them the requested documentation three times myself, and they had no record either from the dentist or from me. They then locked my account and I could not access my own money. I called DBI and got through after being placed on hold for 20 minutes. I demanded access to my account, which they temporality unlocked.
“OGB staff sent DBI my documentation by email TWICE – DBI never acknowledged either email to my knowledge and demanded that I repay the $100 or so they had paid my dentist, which I refused to do. So they said they sent a notice to the IRS that I have this $100 taxable income. Idiots.”