Friday, September 28, 2007

Second Annual Open Enrollment?- Federal judge again extends order halting OGB implementation of Act 479; trial continued until October 11

The Office of Group Benefits will delay implementing a second annual open enrollment period until a decision is rendered by a federal court to decide whether the agency will be required to contract with Louisiana-based companies to provide additional health insurance plans to state workers.

At a September 25 hearing, U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson again extended a September 10 temporary restraining order that bars the Office of Group Benefits from implementing Act 479 until he rules on the constitutionality of the new state law. Trial of the case, which began September 14, is scheduled to resume October 11 in the Middle District Court of Louisiana in Baton Rouge.

Both Humana and United Healthcare filed challenges in federal court to prevent implementation of Act 479, which took effect July 17. Judge Ralph Tyson extended an earlier restraining order that bars OGB from implementing the law pending further action by the court. Testimony is slated to resume on September 24.

Authored by Rep. Charles McDonald of Monroe, Act 479 directs OGB to contract with up to three Louisiana-based insurance companies in each region to provide fully-insured HMO plans in addition to the self-insured EPO, PPO and HMO plans OGB now offers.

The new law also directs OGB to reopen annual enrollment within 60 days. The additional 30-day enrollment period would give 138,000 state workers, school employees and retirees another chance to choose a health plan for the 2007-08 plan year, which began July 1.

It is possible OGB will not be able to implement Act 479 until a judgment is rendered by the court and any subsequent appeals are resolved,” noted Tommy D. Teague, OGB chief executive officer. If Act 479 is upheld, OGB will reopen annual enrollment, and changes in coverage will take effect January 1.”

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