AUSTIN, Texas -- It's been an ongoing fight for affordable health care for Texas teachers, despite recent cost savings, officials with the Teacher Retirement System say the program is still facing a shortfall.
Lawmakers heard the concerns Wednesday during a discussion on how to provide long-term funding for TRS-Care, the health care program for retired teachers.
Leaving town and getting sick or injured was Pre-K teacher Michelle Cardenas' biggest fear.
"We're not covered out of network," said Cardenas.
Cardenas took a family vacation to Colorado in June, and she wound up in the emergency room. Her bill came in this week. She is covered through TRS-Care, the beleaguered health care program for current and retired teachers. Her portion of the bill came out to about $1,500 which is well beyond what she can comfortably pay on a teacher's salary.
Teacher Retirement System officials presented budget concerns to lawmakers at the Capitol Wednesday. They say that healthcare costs go up by about 7 percent every year, while a teacher's salary might see a yearly increase of 3 percent. To make up for that imbalance, the TRS Care system faces a $400 million shortfall.
The healthcare system insures nearly 250,000 teachers or retirees; officials say when the next legislative session begins they'll request $12 billion over a 10 year span to make sure educators receive quality care they can afford. Without a major boost to the budget, the healthcare system won't last. TRS officials say contribution from teachers like Cardenas has gone up by 47 percent in 2018 alone.
That jump caused 30,000 Texas teachers to opt out of the plan designed for them, and chose to buy their own care through the marketplace.
"It's a crisis. I mean, when you people who don't get their medicine, who don't get their asthma medicine, don't get their diabetes medicine, don't get their monthly pills because they can't afford it, and these are the people that we entrust with the care of our kids at public schools," said Cardenas.