TCTA urged lawmakers to consider a permanent solution to rising health care costs for active teachers who have seen their paychecks steadily eroded by increasing premiums and deductibles.
“An ongoing, more permanent solution for unaffordable health insurance is crucial to the teacher shortage. … Educators have paid an increasingly greater share of the total premium directly out of their salaries and the burden on school employees has become staggering,” TCTA’s Pamela McPeters said in testimony before the House Committee on Pensions, Investments and Financial Services on June 6.
The state’s $75 per month contribution to teacher health care hasn’t changed since the inception of the program two decades ago while the costs paid by teachers have gone through the roof. While the state recently chipped in $435 million for TRS-ActiveCare, that infusion of funds is a one-time fix and did not benefit teachers whose districts do not participate in ActiveCare.
McPeters also called on legislators to strike a balance between protecting the fiscal health of the Teacher Retirement System pension fund and providing retirees a much-needed cost-of-living adjustment to their monthly annuity.
She noted that TRS has reported that the pension fund is healthy and could remain so even with an increased benefit to retirees. She laid out a proposal for a series of “catch-up” increases over time given that retirees have not seen a cost-of-living increase since 2004.
“While the costs of providing benefit increases must be taken into consideration, the purpose of the retirement fund is not simply to grow, but to provide retirement security for Texas’ retired school employees who dedicated their lives to our students, Texans, and the future economy,” McPeters told the committee.