Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Claude “Buddy” Leach, Jr. has come out with a statement opposing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to privatize the state’s Office of Group Benefits (OGB), the agency that manages state employees’ health insurance.
“Bobby Jindal’s plan to sell the Office of Group Benefits could jeopardize the quality of health care received by more than 250,000 active and retired Louisiana workers and their dependents,” Leach said in a statement. “OGB does not cost taxpayers a dime to run and selling it will not save the state of Louisiana any money.”
As TPM has reported, the Jindal administration has been quietly exploring a possible sale of OGB. The governor’s budget proposal touted the plan by noting that it would eliminate 149 jobs and generate “recurring savings of $10.2 million.” But critics charge that the move could cost state employees and taxpayers money in the long-run, in the form of reduced benefits and increased premiums. And they say Jindal — who is facing a $1.6 billion budget hole — is after part of the OGB’s half billion dollar surplus.
Current Louisiana law prohibits the surplus from being used for “cash flow purposes.” But a new bill written by Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin (D) contains language that appears to override that law and allow the proceeds of the sale of OGB, which could include the surplus, to go to the state. In his statement, Leach said Jindal “would love to get his hands” on the surplus.
“The only folks likely to benefit from the sale of OGB are the big Wall Street corporations like Goldman Sachs who want to turn it into a profit making venture and Bobby Jindal, who would love to get his hands on the office’s half billion dollar reserve fund,” Leach said. “Louisiana Democrats oppose Jindal’s destructive plan to privatize OGB and I will call on Democrats in the legislature to oppose it.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com