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Chaney looking into actions of benefit advisor

PASCAGOULA — Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said his office is looking into a complaint that a retiree benefit advisor in the Pascagoula school system steered retirees to private plan she was selling.

Chaney told The Mississippi Press that the complaints allege Jackie Theisen, the Pascagoula district’s retiree benefit advisor, was soliciting district retirees to switch their state health benefits to a private insurance policy she was selling through Humana Health Insurance.

Theisen told the newspaper that the claims are false. Theisen said she is the district’s retiree benefit adviser and an independent agent with Humana.

“And, now, just because of this happening, I’m not selling to any more employees or former employees of the school district,” Theisen said.

According to the complaint, Theisen recommended retirees drop their state benefits and purchase the new policy, which she claimed was better and cheaper.

However, Chaney said once a state retiree drops state insurance, he or she can never have it reinstated.

“What’s happening here is statewide and a terrible gray area that we call bait-and-switch,” Chaney told the newspaper. “The less retirees a school district has enrolled in the state plan, the cheaper it is for that district.”

Chaney said he has asked school districts to have a benefit advisor explain a retiree’s benefit plan and then, if district officials want, have private insurance agents pitch policies in a separate consultation.

He said he’s never experienced a situation with a school employee pitching private insurance on the side.

“What’s going on is not right, but it’s not really wrong until the legislation changes, and I’m going to push for that next session,” Chaney said. “We’re here to protect the consumers. If they are thinking about dropping their state benefits, then they need to call my office and ask for comparisons.”

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