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Union says LGC risk pools need greater transparency

State House Bureau

September 04. 2013 9:29PM

CONCORD — The committee reviewing state laws governing public risk pools was told greater transparency and accountability for oversight boards are needed.

The Committee to Review the Hearings Officer’s Report with regard to the New Hampshire Local Government Center is studying compliance with the Bureau of Securities Regulations’ order telling the organization to return about $50 million to members and to reorganize its health care, property and liability, and workers compensation trusts as separate entities.

Earlier the committee heard from the LGC and Wednesday listened to union representatives and the newest public risk pool organization, NH Interlocal Trust.

Union representatives told the committee for years their members agreed to small or no raises to compensate for rising health insurance costs, only to learn the LGC was amassing a huge surplus that should have been returned to members and employees who paid the premiums.

“From the beginning, there was no consideration given to not returning surpluses to the communities,” said David Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of NH.

Lang, a long-time critic of the LGC and a former board member, said the organization began down the wrong path after the workers compensation trust left the organization and became Primex, which competed with the LGC for insurance needs of cities, towns, school districts and counties.

“This risk pool (LGC) has learned nothing from its trips to the Supreme Court,” Lang said. “The board spends more time in non-public sessions than it does in public session.”

He urged the committee to require stronger board governance regulations that include expanding the range of board members to include union representatives, public employee retirees or insurance or legal experts.

Lang also told the committee the exclusive contract with Anthem for health insurance administration prevents individual towns or cities from going to the insurer for a quote for its own policy.

He said ending the exclusive contracts would also mean the state’s four public risk pools would have to seek competitive bids from insurers to administer their programs, which would save taxpayers money.The committee next meets Sept. 11 to hear from the state’s two other public risk pool managers.

Stephen Arnold, the state director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, said retired public employees have not benefited from settlement returning money to cities and towns.

Arnold, a former Portsmouth police detective, said he is retired and his pension has gone down as health care costs have gone up. He noted most retirees are covered under their former public employer’s insurance policy but have to pay the full premium.

“We have no say as a retiree,” Arnold told the committee. “We can’t negotiate rates.”

Albert Jones, the director of NH Interlocal Trust, said the only problem with the SBR order is that it does not address how to reimburse retirees or those who left the system after contributing to their health care costs for years.

The committee next meets Sept. 11 to hear from the state’s two other public risk pool managers.

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