Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Court puts hold on Open Enrollment for Office of Group Benefits

The Advocate reports a legal challenge for Group Benefits in conducting its annual open enrollment meetings this year.

The state Office of Group Benefits did not start its annual enrollment as scheduled Monday because of a last-minute challenge by one of the insurance companies taken off the menu.

FARA Benefit Services Inc. obtained a temporary restraining order Friday that brought the enrollment to a halt. Among other things, FARA contends the Office of Group Benefits ignored Louisiana law when the managed care option was axed from the insurance package on Feb. 15.

FARA claims in a lawsuit filed Friday that state law requires the Group Benefits Policy and Planning Board to review all proposed changes before they become final. That review did not take place, the insurance company says.

State District Judge Timothy Kelley granted the restraining order and scheduled a hearing for Monday to decide whether the state can go forward with the enrollment without the managed care option.

There are 239,000 state workers, retirees and some public school workers covered by the Office of Group Benefits. Of that total, about 35,000 use the managed care option, which is scheduled to expire at the end of June. Office of Group Benefits Chief Executive Officer Tommy Teague said eliminating the managed care option will save members and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars without eliminating services.

Teague said his office looked for the best plan to save the most money and FARA, located in Mandeville, did not measure up to the competition.