Members of a Louisiana State Senate panel voted Wednesday to issue a rare legislative subpoena, and gave the Jindal administration 24 hours to turn over a report it commissioned on the agency that manages state employees health insurance.
The administration’s plan to privatize the agency, the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), has been under fire from critics for months, and questions have been raised over the fate of OGB’s $500 million surplus. Recently, the fight has centered on the so-called “Chaffe report,” a financial analysis of OGB prepared for the state by New Orleans-based Chaffe & Associates. Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, in charge of the agency that oversees OGB, told members of the State Senate’s Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee at a hearing last week that they could have copies, but later went back on that pledge. Those same Senators have now put some force behind their request.
Meanwhile, three committee members, state Sen. Edwin R. Murray (D), state Sen. Karen Peterson (D) and state Sen. Lydia Jackson (D), along with state Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D) — an outspoken critic of Jindal’s plan — sponsored a Senate resolution directing the Division of Administration to “immediately release to members of the legislature any report generated by Chaffe and Associates, Inc., relative to the financial analysis and possible privatization of the Office of Group Benefits.”
According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the resolution passed 21-0 on Wednesday.
The administration contends that privatizing OGB, which oversees health care for around 250,000 state workers, retirees and their dependents, will save the state money and generate significant upfront cash.
The Chaffe report came up last week at a Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing for Rainwater and OGB Chief Scott Kipper. Senators grilled Kipper on why he had not yet seen the report, and even got him to admit that the report could say there is no need to privatize OGB. It was there that Rainwater promised to provide senators with the report.
This week, the administration announced that Kipper had turned in his resignation, after less than two months on the job. Kipper was handpicked to replace Tommy Teague, who was ousted in April for apparently not going along with the privatization plan.
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