People come out to protest LGCBy TIM BUCKLAND
New Hampshire Union Leader
October 03. 2013 8:37PM
CONCORD — Nearly 100 people, most of them firefighters and retirees from across the state, protested outside the New Hampshire Local Government Center building in Concord Thursday evening, demanding that the public insurance administrator return money to its members.
“It’s our money,” said Jeff Mayer, a retired firefighter from Laconia. “I put in 23 years of service and retired and come to find out they’ve been hoarding money.”
The LGC is under a state hearings officer order to return $36 million from surpluses that were deemed too high. That money has been returned, but the Property-Liability Trust, which administers property insurance and workers compensation coverage, is struggling with how to pay $17 million ordered returned to members of HealthTrust. HealthTrust administers health insurance for public employees. That money was improperly used to subsidize the money-losing workers compensation program for more than a decade, the order concluded.
HealthTrust on Thursday night held a public hearing for its proposed new rates for insurance products for the hundreds of towns in its membership. It runs two pools. A calendar-based pool is scheduled to see rates go up 9.3 percent, while a pool operating on a July-June fiscal year will see rates go up 6.3 percent, HealthTrust Executive Director Peter Bragdon said during the hearing.
The idea of rate increases did not sit well with David Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, who led a decade-long battle to force LGC to open up its operations and return surpluses.
“Raising health insurance rates on employees, while continuing to increase excesses in surplus, is an overcharge and an injustice. HealthTrust needs to get their house in order before asking cities and towns for more money,” Lang said.
Peter J. Curro, chairman of the HealthTrust Board of Trustees, greeted the protesters — some of whom were asking him to give them back their money — and answered questions before going into the hearing. A back door to the building was available.
“I’m not afraid of anybody,” he said. “I think everything we’ve done is fine. I’ll talk to anybody.”
During the hearing, an audience that included many of the protesters as well as the heads of many statewide unions, was told that HealthTrust is planning to return more than $11 million from surpluses realized during 2012.