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Retired Teachers Don't Want Health Care Premiums To Go Up

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Retired teachers in Texas are bracing for higher insurance premiums if state lawmakers aren't able to come up with additional funds for medical care.

Pat Olney is a retired teacher and serves as a local delegate for the Texas Retired Teachers Association.

She says if lawmakers don't come up with at least $233 million this session, the retirees covered by the health plan will see premium increases as high as 28 percent this fall.

"Initially the insurance went up about 30 percent and they put off another 20 percent for the 2004 premiums. So you're already looking at a big impact on income, which is dwindling. We're asking for a cost of living increase but even that won't offset." says Olney.

The plan covers more than 100,000 retired teachers and their dependents in Texas. One reason for the current shortfall is the number of retirees have increased in recent years, largely because lawmakers provided financial incentives to do so.

Linda Coats retired 5 years ago from College Station ISD. She says after teaching for more than 30 years, they shouldn't have to live check to check.

"Financially it is a burden because you're not making any more money and they keep taking more out. This year alone, they took out $60 a month more, they raised the co-pay to $25. So you have a physical therapy session three times a week..that's $75 and most of us don't have that." says Coats.

Retired teachers currently pay $650 premium a month and that's not even including prescription costs. Most of them live on a fixed income so it could force retirees to drop their level of care or drop it all together.

"We have so many teachers who are elderly and so many living on one salary that even the one-fourth would be a terrible impact on their income..already living at poverty level." says Olney.

The Teachers' Retirement System of Texas has appealed to three different legislative committees. Hoping some kind of decision can be made that's good for both the state, and retired teachers.