Educator healthcare: ATPE testifies before TRS board

The healthcare plan available to public education employees has an affordability problem. Brian Guthrie, Executive Director of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) referenced this issue in comments to the board and stakeholder groups Thursday as healthcare policy was discussed for nearly eight hours at the TRS town hall board meeting.

State funding for employee health insurance has remained at the same amount of $75 per month per eligible employee since the program was first made available in 2002. In addition to the state contribution, school districts are required to contribute a minimum of $150 per month per employee, and many districts contribute above this amount. Still, even with the district contribution, premium increases have been borne almost entirely by employees, with increases of nearly 250 percent over the life of the program.

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson joins other panelists at an Oct. 22 TRS town hall. Photo provided by @TRS.

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson joined panelists at an Oct. 22 TRS town hall on healthcare. Photo from @TRSofTexas.

During the town hall segments yesterday, ATPE testified that the employee share of premiums here in Texas far exceeds what employees in other professions nationally are required to pay, as shown in various recent studies. TRS-ActiveCare’s problems can very clearly be traced back to a deficient and static state funding stream that does not compare to other private or public sector employees.

Further, ATPE explained to the board that if the legislature intends for employee health insurance to continue to be a benefit, changes must be made to take the burden off of the employee. The TRS board has done a commendable job keeping both retiree and active employee health care programs alive despite the fiscal challenges the legislature has created.

Legislation in 2015 required that a joint House and Senate interim committee be appointed to study active and retiree healthcare programs. House appointees were recently named and stakeholder groups are awaiting Senate appointees in hopes that progress can be made toward finding an adequate funding stream for employee health insurance. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on employee and retiree health insurance programs as they develop.

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8 thoughts on “Educator healthcare: ATPE testifies before TRS board

  1. Steve Robbins

    Retirees might be better able to afford their medical insurance/care if their monthly annuity were increased. For years that was not possible because the equity and real estate markets were depressed. NOW is the time for an increase….stock and bond markets are at record heights and real estate values are very strong. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Debbie Massey

    My district pays $250.00 of educators health plan. I have gone from 7 years ago paying $75.00 for my insurance to now paying $400 for my health insurance.

    Reply
  3. Richard Edwards

    I pay $1172 a month for myself and my spouse. Yes, the state is really paying for health care for teachers. Shame on them.

    Reply
  4. Ted Odum

    I have taken a pay cut every year since I became a teacher in 2006 due to the rising cost of insurance. I still pay through the nose for every physician visit due to ever rising deductibles. I am ready for some relief or at least to get some value for the 20% of my salary that I fork over every year.

    Reply
  5. Rene Rodgers

    I am considering moving out of the education field. I love my job and feel that I am impacting children and families, however, it’s time to think about my family. I can’t afford to pay $1000 a month on insurance. TRS needs to provide relief to employees who cover the family.

    Reply
  6. Ann

    While insurance employee costs have risen 93% over the last decade, teachers in Texas have seen a 250% increase? Sickening. I’ve always been amused to hear we are getting a 3% raise and then see my insurance rate double. How was that a raise, exactly?

    Reply
    1. Rebecca huddle

      Isn’t that the truth! Our own Texas Representative Kevin Brady has contributed to our woes through his support of limits to retirement collection of spousal #SS claims. He supported the teachers union needs up North in 2004 when this was arbitrarily forced on Texas teachers! (No allowed to be unionize)
      Thanks to this policy, other professionals legally are entitled to the monies paid in for their spouse (double/triple dip). Thanks Kevin!!

      Reply
      1. Josh Sanderson

        Rebecca:

        In regards to your comments on Congressman Kevin Brady and Social Security (SS) benefits, I wanted to clarify some things. The changes in federal Social Security law that you mention occurred as the result of HR 743, The Social Security Fairness Act of 2004. HR 743 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 396-28, with only three of the Texas delegation voting against it. The widespread support for this legislation stemmed from a variety of reasons, but primarily because it enacted many much-needed reforms to Social Security; the Government Pension Offset (GPO) spousal benefit changes were only a small part of the overall legislation, even though it did have a significant impact on many retirees. For many of you who work in a position where you are eligible for a government pension through the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) from a position in which you did not contribute to Social Security (over 90% of Texas public education employees do not contribute to SS), the GPO will apply to you when calculating your spousal benefits. Until the enactment of HR 743, there was a loophole of sorts in federal law that allowed someone to escape the effects of the GPO if they worked their final day before retirement in a position that contributed to both SS and TRS, regardless of whether or not they had contributed to SS earlier in their careers. This loophole allowed these employees to collect their full spousal benefit without consideration of the amount of their TRS benefit. This is important because of the way that spousal benefits are calculated for other employees who are not eligible for a government pension. There are many factors that go into consideration when calculating spousal benefits, but a simplified way to think about it is that for someone who is not eligible for a government pension like that of TRS, they will received the greater of their personal benefit OR their spousal/surviors benefit. In effect, it is a dollar for dollar offset between their personal benefit and their spousal benefit. For those of you subject to the GPO, instead of the dollar for dollar offset, you have a reduction in your spousal/survivors benefit of 2/3 of your TRS benefit. So, technically, even though HR 743 closed the last-day loophole, it did not result in Texas public education employees subsidizing anyone else’s SS benefits, regardless of whether they are in a state that allows unionization of employees or not.
        Further, I want to comment on Congressman Brady’s record on working with ATPE on issues that affect educators’ benefits. Congressman Brady has been working with ATPE to get legislation passed that would INCREASE Social Security benefits for many public education employees who qualify for SS based on their own work history. HR 711, The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, proposes to changes the way that personal SS benefits are calculated for those of you who qualify for a government pension, again such as through TRS. If passed, HR 711 would reduce the effects of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) by as much as 1/3 for current retirees and up to 1/2 for future retirees by eliminating the existing arbitrary formula used to calculate benefits and replacing it with a formula that actually factors in the employee’s employment and earnings history. While ATPE continues to work toward fully repealing the WEP and GPO, this proposed legislation is an improvement over the current situation hundreds of thousands of public education employees in Texas face.

        I appreciate you caring enough to follow this issue, Rebecca. Hopefully we are going to have good news on the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act soon. We will always be working to protect and improve the benefits of those of you who serve in our public schools.

        Reply

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