Retired Teachers May See Huge Health Care Premium Increase

WICHITA FALLS - Retired Texas teachers are hoping Governor Greg Abbott will soon sign a bill that will help keep their current health care system afloat.

Over the next two years, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas' "TRS Care" health insurance fund deficit is expected to grow to about $1.1 billion.

And leaders with the local Retired Teachers Association chapter say they've been fighting to keep it alive.

The more than three decade old program could begin to buckle and even to collapse under the weight of its debt but while lawmakers increased funding, it was only about $180 million.  

Local Retired Teachers Association Co-President Cliff O'Neal said their main concern is for retired teachers under 65 who don't qualify for Medicare.

1 out of 20 people in the state of Texas are drawing a pension from TRS Care, either retired employees or their families. One-third of those are getting $1000 or less a month.

"Since we have TRS, you don't pay into Social Security, so here you have a widow or a single parent or a widower that's drawing $1000 a month and then you start increasing their premiums for health insurance you can see what can happen," O'Neal said. "They'll either start doing without medicine, going without health care and that's not what we designed this for. The State of Texas promised and affordable health care for the school retirees and that's what they need to be getting."

O'Neal worked for the WFISD for 22 years and retired as the Principal at Zundy, he said the Retired Teachers Association has been fighting for help from the state.

"We feel like our legislators try, they've only got so much money," said O'Neal. "We understand that, but we feel like something needs to start happening."

The bill waiting on the Governor's signature will only bring roughly $180 million to  offset the $1.1 billion health insurance deficit, which likely will cause premiums for retired teachers to go way up.

"We're really concerned about those under 65 because they don't have opportunity for Medicare and of course those that are making $1000 or less because they retired years ago, their premiums start going up and we have some problems," O'Neal said.

He said while he wishes the state could give more to help retired teachers, it's a step in the right direction and they are now waiting to see what decision Governor Abbott will make.


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