Despite a long-awaited state Supreme Court ruling, the legal wrangling between the state and the former Local Government Center continues. This time, the focus is on the HealthTrust risk pool, which insures roughly 50,000 municipal and school district employees in New Hampshire.
The complaints, all stemming from former Senate President Peter Bragdon's hire by the former Local Government Center (LGC), were brought by Concord Democrat Rick Watrous.
The committee made short work of most of them -- dismissing charges that Senator Bragdon knew he was being hired to help the LGC because of his position in the Senate, that he used his status to get his job, and that appointed fellow Senator Jeannie Forrester to a committee studying the LGC to curry favor with his future employer.
The state’s highest court has upheld a regulators’ order forcing the Local Government Center to pay cities and towns $33 million in overpayments and to refund $17 million it transferred from a health insurance pool to a workers comp pool.
The ruling hinges on the authority of a State Securities Bureau hearing officer, and if he had the power to impose precise operating standards for the former Local Government Center that aren’t specified in law.
The Local Government Center -- or LGC -- which provides insurance to cities and towns, has argued that hearing officer Don Mitchell violated its rights in a 2012 order compelling it to return money to its members, and for its Property-Liability Trust to repay its HealthTrust $17.1 million.
Ten communities have filed a lawsuit to stop the LGC from issuing refunds. Under a hearing officer’s order, by September 1st, the Local Government Center has to return tens of millions of dollars to communities that for years paid inflated insurance premiums.
Recently, a coalition of 12 towns has banded together to demand what it calls its "fair share" of health insurance surplus payments from the Local Government Center.
The sticking point is that the LGC recently announced it plans to pay back more than $52 million to communities that paid into their health insurance and property-liability risk pools by offering a premium holiday. That's basically the equivalent of store credit for buying more insurance.
After Maura Carroll's sudden departure from the Local Government Center last month, former Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald took over. By shifting the LGC toward greater transparency, refocusing on customer service, and repairing the bitter relationship with its regulator, Bald hopes to overhaul the culture of the embattled organization. And put its years-long legal troubles to rest.