Health Care Costs for Texas Teachers are soaring to rates that many teachers can’t afford, while the State has not increased it’s contributions in years
By Julie Chang – American-Statesman Staff
About 442,000 Texas public school employees and their dependents are enrolled in TRS ActiveCare. Monthly premiums, after the minimum state and employer contributions are deducted, cost teachers between $126 and $489 for individual plans and up to $2,004 for family plans. The highest yearly in-network deductibles for individuals and families are $2,500 and $5,000, respectively.
Texas was 27th in the nation for teacher pay in 2016, according to the latest data available from the National Education Association. That year, the average teacher salary in the state was $51,890.
More than half of the state’s public school employees are on HMO plans regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance or plans through their spouse’s employer or through their school districts that have their own health insurance program.
Seven years ago, health insurance premiums and deductibles were so high for San Marcos teacher Susan Seaton that she said she couldn’t afford her diabetes medication and she had a stroke.
This year, because of changes in her benefits under the only health insurance plan she can afford through the state, she’s spacing out her rheumatoid arthritis injections to make the medication last longer, against her doctor’s wishes. She’s spending a third of her paycheck to pay for the medication up front — $4,400 for a three-month supply.
“When the teachers of Texas are paid well below teachers in other states and their health insurance continues to rise, then you have to start making the hard choices. Do you pay for health care or medication, or do you pay for living expenses, or do you leave the teaching field?” Seaton, 49, said. “We’re at a tipping point.”
Health Care Costs for Texas Teachers are rising so much that many teachers are having a very hard time affording health care.
This is happening because as health costs are rising – the state’s monthly contribution to teacher premiums has remained unchanged over the past 15-plus years at $75 under TRS ActiveCare, the teacher health insurance program run by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. At the same time, teachers’ share of premiums has more than doubled since the program went into effect in 2002. Many school districts have raised their contribution from the statutory minimum of $150 a month, but with financial constraints from an outdated state school funding system, cash-strapped districts have passed on some of the increases to teachers.
“When the state’s contribution doesn’t go up and school districts are hammered with their own budgetary issues, it only leaves the teacher, bus driver or cafeteria worker to make up the rest,” said Clay Robison with the Texas State Teachers Association, which for the past few sessions has lobbied the Legislature to increase its teacher health insurance contribution. “It’s eating away at their take-home pay.”
This article was originally posted on www.mystatesman.com