DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Judy Bryant was a school teacher for 32 years and retired from Dallas ISD 11 years ago. Now, she’s worried health care costs will give her a serious math problem.
“Say our premiums were to double or some talking about even tripling, that would be really a disaster,” Bryant says.
Bryant says her premium could rise from $200 to $400 each month, and her yearly deductible could go up from $1,000 to $4,000.
She’s not alone.
More than 260,000 retired teachers, custodians, and other support staff in Texas are facing the same situation.
It’s all because the fund for retired teachers and support staff, called TRS-Care, is facing a more than $1 billion dollar shortfall.
This is the case even after the legislature provided $768 million for the 2016-17 budget years.
Bryant blames state lawmakers for going back on their promise to guarantee their health care. “They have never funded it properly. Each session, every two years, they just put a band-aid on it, throw some money at it instead of actually changing the formula for funding it.”
For some retirees, the TRS-Care is their main policy. For others like Bryant who are on medicare, TRS-Care is a supplemental policy.
Bryant says she’s also concerned a change in the state plan will force her to see new doctors. “If there are certain doctors that I’ve seen for years and years and years, that I trust and everything else, I would really hate to change.”
Other retirees raised the issue at a recent town hall meeting in Plano.
One man told state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, “You guys feel as if you have some kind of moral authority to yank the rug out from under us.”
Shaheen replied, “We’re trying to fix the problem.”
He said health care costs are rising nationally and that this is no different. “We do need to make structural changes the way health care is provided. Otherwise, we’re going to run out of money and you won’t have any healthcare.”
There are about 20,000 new retirees added to the TRS-Care plan each year.
The Texas House has voted to inject an extra $500 million into the fund, but the Texas Senate voted to increase funding by $316 million.
So until a compromise is reached, Bryant says she and others will remain uncertain about how much more they’ll have to pay.
Bryant says she hopes lawmakers can learn a lesson. “I’d like to remind all of the state lawmakers that each one of them got where they are because of teachers.”