Labat takes political win in health insurance matter

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / May 2, 1999

LAPLACE – The pendulum swung back and St. John Parish President ArnoldLabat won a political victory over five parish council members over the issue of hospitalization insurance for parish employees.

The April 13 meeting saw the parish approved a self-insurance plan to be administered by Consolidated Health Care and LaPlace agent Natalie Tatje.

On April 22, Labat vetoed the action. On Tuesday, the Parish Council failedto override that veto.

The action left parish employees with their current insurance carrier, United HealthCare, administered by LaPlace agent David Millet Jr.

“I’m embarrassed by the parish president,” Tatje commented after the final vote, noting the council held four insurance committee meetings and one council meeting where the issues were discussed, yet Labat failed to attend any of them. Then, he vetoed the matter.Councilman Joel McTopy opened discussion to override Labat’s veto of the hospitalization plan, seconded by Kevin Duhon. McTopy argued that a 1994insurance fund had, according to finance advisor Claudette Rafael, more than $225,000 in it.

Rafael pointed out, though, that $50,000 was already budgeted for the parish’s General Fund, leaving $184,000.

Labat argued that the parish employees’ hospitalization claims have been rising every year, being $1.4 million in 1997 and $1.7 million in 1998.According to the self-funding insurance plan touted by Tatje, the fund would accept employee premium payments then pay out to cover claims.

Tatje argued that, with diminishing claims, the parish could realize a profit from operation of the plan.

“I wouldn’t take that bet,” Labat said. “The odds are we won’t have anysurplus.”Stephen Blanchard of Consolidated claimed United’s estimates as to claim amounts were inaccurate, as the council had not received regular reports.

Labat observed, “I want to be in the position to say (to the employees) the council did it to you – Arnold Labat didn’t do it to you.”Voting to override were McTopy, Duhon, Nickie Monica, Duaine Duffy and Steve Thornton. Six votes were required to override.Thornton then moved to extend United’s current contract, due to expire May 1, for one month until a full-term contract could be agreed upon, and that was approved 7-2, with Duhon and McTopy voting against it. Thataction brings in a 13.8 percent increase in monthly premiums paid by theparish.

McTopy then moved once more to accept the Consolidated proposal, seconded by Monica, but Perry Bailey moved to table action on the 1999- 2000 hospitalization contract. The motion to table was approved 5-4.Labat’s veto of another action, to increase the dental plan coverage of $1,000 per person per year to $1,500, received no council attention. Thefirst veto vote voided the Consolidated contract, so a vote on the dental plan was unnecessary.

In his veto message, Labat suggested “the parish leave the coverage at $1,000 and self-insure the additional $500 in coverage.””This is politics at its worst,” Tatje observed. “I won’t be trying againnext year. It takes up too much of my time to lose.”In other activity, the Parish Council: Took under advisement helping the River Parishes Mental Health Clinic, which did not receive adequate United Way funding this year due to defaulting pledges.

In 1998, the clinic received $21,000 from St. John Parish’s United Way,along with other money from St. Charles and St. James parishes, accordingto Faith Farlough. However, the latest campaign fell short $43,000 inpledges.

Deferred a resolution of support for an apartment complex for the mentally-handicapped, planned on Cambridge Drive between the skating rink and the bowling alley. Whitney Joseph urged the resolution and addedseveral public officials have lent their support, including Sen. JohnBreaux.

McTopy responded he wanted to hear what Cambridge residents thought of the idea and added, “To hell with John Breaux! He doesn’t live here, I live here!” Issued a proclamation for a prayer vigil May 6 in front of the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace, starting at 4 p.m. Announced the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at the East St.

John High School track stadium, tonight beginning at 6 p.m. Approved spending $1,930 for 100 aluminum anti-littering signs, sponsored by the River Region Caucus, and featuring a toll-free number to report violations: 1-888-LITRBUG.

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