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HealthTrust's tax-free status still in limbo

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 22. 2014 7:39PM

CONCORD — The state Bureau of Securities Regulation and former subsidiaries of the New Hampshire Local Government Center could potentially reach an agreement that would cancel a hearing to determine whether the public insurance administrators would keep their quasi-government, tax-free status.

“I know both sides are working hard to come to some kind of resolution for the benefit of our members and to build the foundation for a better relationship with our regulator,” said Peter Bragdon, executive director of HealthTrust, which along with Property-Liability Trust administer health insurance, property coverage and workers’ compensation plans to public employees and member cities, towns and school districts throughout the state.

The Bureau of Securities Regulation had asked hearing officer Donald Mitchell to revoke the entities’ tax-free status.

The request was in response to a secret agreement reached in October and announced after — and in response to — a state Supreme Court ruling in January that upheld an August 2012 order that, in part, required PLT to return $17.1 million in subsidiaries provided by HealthTrust over the course of 12 years to prop up a money-losing workers’ compensation program.

A deal announced last month would undo the secret agreement, which saw HealthTrust acquire all of the assets and liabilities of Property-Liability Trust. The so-called termination agreement calls for PLT to reacquire its assets and liabilities from HealthTrust and repay $17.1 million that had been taken from HealthTrust to subsidize a money-losing workers’ compensation program for more than a decade. HealthTrust plans to distribute the $17.1 million to its member communities and school districts.

The sides differ on whether the $17.1 million transfer from PLT to HealthTrust should include a $1.7 million interest in the entities’ shared building in Concord and whether PLT effectively shut down when the secret agreement was announced and executed in January.

But, just before hearings were to begin on Monday morning, attorneys from the BSR and HealthTrust and PLT began negotiating a potential settlement agreement. Mitchell postponed the hearings pending a resolution.

Both sides were optimistic that a resolution could be reached.

“My guess is there will be an agreement, but nothing in this matter is predictable,” Andru Volinsky, an attorney for the BSR, said in an email to a reporter.

“I think there’s a reasonable chance, but it’s hard to say,” Bragdon said.

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