Teachers and other school employees currently working in Texas classrooms bear the responsibility of paying for their own health-insurance premiums with limited assistance from the state and employing school districts. The state amount and the minimum school-district contribution for school-employee health insurance were set in 2001, and 17 years later the combined total remains frozen at $225 per month, despite years of increases in premiums and other health-care costs. As a result, the amount many employees pay for premiums has quadrupled over that time, even while benefits have been cut. In the face of premium and out-of-pocket cost increases, active school employees are moving toward lower-benefit health-care plans or even dropping health insurance altogether.
The state maintains a separate TRS-Care health program for retired school employees. The state, active school employees, and local school districts all contribute to help offset retirees’ premiums. Retirees pay substantial premiums and out-of-pocket costs out of their pension annuities, which have remained largely flat and have lost more than 20 percent of their purchasing power to inflation over the past dozen or so years. In 2015, the legislature provided enough funding to allow this program to limp forward but did not address the long term. In 2017, the legislature shifted a significant proportion of rising health costs onto retirees while reducing benefits for most. For many retirees, as for active employees, the cost of decent coverage is now literally unaffordable.
State funding for health-care programs for active and for retired school employees is simply not designed to keep pace with the historically higher rate of increase in health-care costs. As a result, these programs are structurally unbalanced and need secure funding to make them reliable and sustainable.
Support significant increases in state contributions toward health insurance for active and retired school employees and funding mechanisms to enable those contributions to adjust for changes in health-care cost and keep the employee/retiree share at affordable levels for decent coverage.