Gautreaux: Insurance office in danger

By: LEE HUDSON
Sen. D.A. “Butch” Gautreaux will retire from representing District 21 after 16 years of public service.

Gautreaux discussed current issues when speaking to the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon at the Petroleum Club on Wednesday.

“I want to take this time to announce my candidacy for husband, father and grandfather,” Gautreaux said.

The Office of Group Benefits is the health care provider for Louisiana state employees. The governor’s office wanted to institute a 3 percent charge for state employees’ paychecks for the state budget.

“Not teachers, because they picket. Not state troopers, because we work with them day in and day out. Just the rank-and-file folks that work at the capitol and the driver’s license bureau all over the state of Louisiana … I have been fighting it for four months right now. I haven’t won this battle … it asks that of the employees of Louisiana, the ones who cannot say a word in opposition to anything without getting fired,” Gautreaux said.

Currently OGB pays 75 percent of state employees’ health insurance.

“It’s $1.3 billion a year in premiums to the state. The governor’s office hired a company to do an analysis of the value of OGB in an effort to sell it off,” Gautreaux said.

The state is able to turn around payments to health care providers in 48 hours.

“Now we have this deal with a Medicaid provider and administrator, a company that was preselected. The contract is worth $300-something million. During the confirmation hearings, Paul Rainwater was asked about this contract. There is a rumor going around that the contract that they’re talking about may be put out for bid, has already been awarded. The answer keeps coming up that is similar to taking the Fifth. This is work product, and we cannot discuss what is going on,” Gautreaux said.

The secretary of health and hospitals and an attorney confirmed the company was getting the contract.

“I was disappointed that my colleagues confirmed these folks after they admitted they were doing these things that were highly unethical,” Gautreaux said.

Gautreaux is still trying to fight for the Office of Group Benefits.

“The rumor is that the deal is already made, that the company that’s going to get the business has already been selected … and I’m trying to stop it. I called in the Justice Department, and as you know, they won’t talk about an ongoing investigation, but they’re aware of these things going on. There may be indictments, and there may not be.

“It is very disappointing that the very governor that accused the legislature of being corrupt and incompetent is the very governor that is involved in all of these deals. And I have been critical of his traveling all over the United States. … I have been a big mouth for the entire 16 years I have been there. When I see injustices or when I see things that aren’t in the public interest, I speak out. It makes some people uncomfortable, but for the most part, people are appreciative that I do speak out,” Gautreaux said.

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