Tommy Teague has been un-teagued.
Put another way, he’s back.
Tommy Teague, who was rewarded by Bobby Jindal for taking the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) from an underfunded program to one with half-a-billion dollars in reserve funds in five years. Bobby Jindal rewarded him for his performance by firing him. But he has been BROUGHT BACK to lead the agency that provides health coverage for about 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.
Because Jindal had also fired Teague’s wife, the late Melody Teague, only a few months earlier, the term “teagued” was soon applied to any employee or legislator who was fired or demoted by Jindal for disagreeing with or voting against any of the administration’s proposals, most of which proved detrimental or outright disastrous for the state.
Melody Teague got her job back but only after being forced to go through the Civil Service appeal process. Now, Tommy Teague has his old job back, albeit nearly seven years later.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne announced that Teague will assume his new duties as OGB chief executive officer (CEO) on Monday, Dec. 12.
“Tommy Teague brings years of valuable experience to the helm of Group Benefits,” Dardenne said. “He has a proven record of success in the agency, and I am pleased he has agreed to return to this post.”
Teague previously served as the agency’s CEO from 2006 to 2011. He was in good standing with what passed as the Jindal administration until April 15, 2011. But when he failed to display sufficient enthusiasm for Jindal’s privatization proposal for the agency, then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater unceremoniously showed him the door.
OGM subsequently went through a succession of CEOs until Susan West took over and put her own stamp on the agency. That stamp included decreasing/increasing premiums, decreasing benefits and firing employees. Jindal, meanwhile, in what seemed to be an inexplicable move at the time, went against consultants’ recommendations and reduced premiums.
But there turned out to be a method to his madness. Because the state is on the hook for 75 percent of the premiums of employees, by reducing premiums, the obligations of the state were also reduced accordingly. Jindal then took the difference in what the state previously paid and the lower rate and used that money to help plug his annual budget deficits.
But by doing that, the reserve fund began to be diminished dramatically as income from premiums failed to keep up with payments of benefits. In no time, the reserve fund was gutted by about 80 percent until less than $100 million remained before Kristy Nichols, Rainwater’s successor, and West began tampering with the system by increasing premiums and cutting benefits.
A spokesman for Dardenne’s office said on Wednesday that West was leaving the agency, but he said he did not know what her plans were.
“I am anxious to return to work and look forward to serving the state again,” Teague said. “I am confident my previous experience will benefit the office.”
In addition to his prior stint as Group Benefits CEO, Teague served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Louisiana Health Cooperative and executive director of the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund.
TGTB (Thank God Tommy’s Back).