Retired Teachers leaving TRS Health care in large numbers

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BRENHAM, Tex. (KBTX) - The Texas Retirement System of Texas has seen an abnormal drop off in users of the TRS Health Care program this past year. Approximately 7,800 users have dropped their state health care program, according to the group.

"We don't see this kind of exodus from the health care program every year," said Tim Lee, Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. "We may see a few thousand that leave the program for any number of reason, but not this many people. We are definitely on some shaky ground here."

Lee and others believe one of the main reasons former teachers are leaving is because of the increase in premiums.

It's especially difficult for former teachers on Medicare with a dependent spouse. For those who meet these requirements, the average monthly premium for their plan will jump from $230 to $529.

The increase in premiums is meant pay off the losses in the health care program.

"It was not affordable to continue with the TRS plan," said Nancy Oertli, a retired teacher. She taught math and science in Brenham for 26 years.

"Next year it will be $529 for me and my husband combined. That is a big chunk of change," said Oertli.

Teachers opting out say they are taking a big risk. Once teachers leave the TRS program, they cannot get back in. Oertli said she knows she's taking a chance.

"But I felt like I was also taking a gamble if I stayed with TRS," said Oertli. "The legislative session comes back in another year, and they are already predicting another deficit, so what are they going to do then," she said.

Officials with the retired teachers association say the programs can be fixed. Still, more dropouts are expected.

"A lot of people are going to un-enroll after the first of the year," said Lee. "Some people won't know how it will impact them until they actually see the dollar amount."