House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto (R-Dayton) announced this morning that the House budget will contain full funding for the program that provides health insurance to retired public school employees, TRS-Care.
TRS-Care covers more than 240,000 retired education employees and is projected to run out of funding in 2016 if the state does not intervene. Although it is still very early in the process of developing the state budget, Chairman Otto’s pledge means that $768 million will be included in the House version of the state’s 2016-17 budget. The Senate’s version of the budget does not currently include this amount; however, Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) has indicated that she is willing to work toward finding a solution to the funding crisis.
ATPE has testified in front of both the House and Senate budget committees this session calling upon the state to act now to increase funding for both active educators’ and retirees’ health insurance programs. Increasing healthcare funding was also one of the legislative priorities discussed at ATPE’s Political Involvement Training and Lobby Day activities earlier this week. Many ATPE members visited the Capitol on Monday to share ATPE’s message about the need to properly fund TRS-Care and ActiveCare.
Both programs are facing financial problems largely because state funding for both TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare has seriously lagged the actual cost of coverage and typical employer contribution rates. Active education employees’ health insurance funding from the state has not changed since 2001, remaining at $75 per employee per month. State funding for retirees’ health insurance was temporarily reduced in 2011 and has not followed health insurance trends.
The state budget is not expected to be finalized until May, so there are still many weeks of negotiations left. ATPE will continue delivering the message that it is vital that these programs be properly addressed by the state. We encourage each of you to contact your elected officials to share your personal experience as an educator dealing with employee health insurance costs, and urge the state to increase its contributions to both programs.