Get Active and Speak Up for Affordable Health Care for School Employees

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A special session of the Texas legislature could be coming next year to remedy the longstanding inadequacy and inequity of state funding for school districts. If a special session to overhaul school finance does occur, lawmakers will need to confront a growing crisis of health-care affordability for Texas school employees.

HealthCareCostChart15-16School employees are getting an unwelcome reminder of that crisis in their paychecks this month, as higher premiums for health coverage take effect. The primary cause? State health-insurance funding, flowing through basic formula aid to school districts, has remained stuck for 13 years at the same low dollar amount per employee even as health-care costs have risen sharply. This school year alone, many school employees will see double-digit increases in premiums for their health coverage, unless their districts have found some way to make up for inadequate state aid.

Texas AFT urges members and supporters to speak up now and put this issue on lawmakers’ school-finance reform agenda for immediate action. You can start making the case for urgent action by signing our new petition to the legislature, copied in full below:

We ask the Texas Legislature to make immediate and ongoing increases in state funding for active school employees’ health insurance provided through formula aid to school districts.

THE PROBLEM:

–The state’s funding for health insurance has stagnated at $75 per employee per month since 2002, while the cost of health insurance has risen steadily.

–As a result, employees have been bearing an ever-increasing share of the cost of coverage. In the 2002-2003 school year, after taking into account the monthly $75 state contribution and the minimum required district contribution of $150 a month, the employee share of the premium was under 30 percent for individual coverage for a mid-level comprehensive plan administered by the Teacher Retirement System. The employee share has more than doubled since then, to 63 percent this school year.

–Employee costs for decent individual and dependent health coverage, whether through TRS or through local district plans, are increasingly unaffordable.

THE SOLUTION:

–The Texas Legislature needs to address the health-care affordability crisis for active school employees as part of the long-needed overhaul of school-funding formulas that may soon be compelled by the Texas Supreme Court.

–Increased state funding should begin with an immediate $75 monthly increase per employee in formula aid for school districts earmarked for health coverage, effective for the current 2015-2016 school year.

–Additional annual incremental increases in state funding of $75 per employee should occur until the employee share of the premium cost for individual coverage under a decent comprehensive plan is reduced to the level originally established in 2002 when the state began specifically funding employee health care through the school-finance formula. Once that level of state funding is restored, it should be maintained by indexing the state contribution to medical costs.

–As part of a systematic approach to the health-care affordability crisis, the state also should support wellness programs and additional cost-reduction measures that do not compromise the quality of health care.

Sign the petition now!