Seeking State Health-Care Savings: Do It With Us, Not to Us

The Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Robert Duncan, Republican of Lubbock, is taking a new look at how to engineer cost savings in state-financed health-care programs. These include the state-run Teacher Retirement System’s programs for active and retired school employees and the Employees Retirement System’s plan for employees in higher education and at state agencies.

Last year, as you may recall, Texas AFT successfully opposed a bill by Sen. Duncan that would have conscripted education employees in a number of cost-containment experiments. Sen. Duncan commented today on the obstacles his legislation encountered last session from school employees who did not want to serve as “guinea pigs” in experiments in which they and their representatives had little say.

Today Texas AFT’s Ted Melina Raab spelled out the criteria by which Texas AFT will judge any new proposals in the 2011 session. Melina Raab said: “On behalf of our more than 65,000 active and retired public and higher education employee members, Texas AFT opposed Senate Bill 10 during the 81st Legislature because we believe it did not meet reasonable standards for fairness and for the likelihood of its success in improving health outcomes and lowering health-care costs. However, we are ready to work productively with policy-makers and health-care professionals toward those ends.”

Texas AFT’s spokesman said we will evaluate any future proposals for significant change in health-care programs for our members based on how those proposals answer some key questions. For instance: Does the proposal provide active and retired employees and their representatives with opportunities for significant involvement in development of the legislation, program design, and program evaluation? Does the proposal require participation by active and retired employees only on a voluntary basis? Does it provide health-care benefits for participating active and retired employees that are equal to or greater than under current programs? Would total health-care costs for participating active and retired employees be equal to or less than under current programs? Does the proposal require application of sound scientific methods and medical practices in program design? Does it require open and rigorous scientific program evaluation?

Texas AFT will keep you informed as we learn more about the direction Sen. Duncan and his colleagues on the State Affairs Committee will take on this issue in the 2011 session.