Retired teachers in Texas are projected to pay double or triple their current premiums for healthcare beginning September 1.
"Retired teachers are very fed up. I'm extremely frustrated," said Pat Hill who taught math in Collin County schools for 32 years.
Since 1985, the state has provided healthcare for retired teachers through a plan called TRS Care.
As of last year, 261,500 retired teachers, dependents and their surviving spouses, according to the State Comptroller.
But in recent years medical costs have risen higher than what the state contributes to TRS Care leaving the fund with more than a billion dollar shortfall now.
Unless state lawmakers change the plan’s design or add significant funding, retiree premiums are projected to triple this summer.
Hill, who’s 68, uses TRS Care to supplement her Medicare coverage. She said her cost will double.
But like all retired teachers under 65, Reanel Merriman relies on it solely for her medical coverage.
"We pay about $450 a month. I have heard possibilities of it going up to more than $1,800 a month. But I think it will probably be raised $1,000,” said Merriman, 63.
That's more than her monthly pension.
But state lawmakers have known for years this was an issue facing the state.
Will legislators address it with permanent changes this session?
"I think we're going to have to,” said state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano.
He has filed one of several bills to solve the shortfall. Taylor proposes moving excess money from the state's rainy day fund after it's fully funded into TRS Care.
"I just hope it can get the attention of leadership as a solution to provide literally billions of dollars to take care of important obligations that we as Texas have made to retired teachers,” he said.
Last week, State Comptroller Glenn Hegar warned TRS Care is a "significant, long-term financial challenge" for the state.
“At its creation in 1985, TRS-Care was expected to remain solvent for just 10 years, with the understanding that additional funding or benefit changes would be necessary to maintain the plan. Its funding formula hasn’t changed since 2005, however, and hasn’t kept pace with plan costs, requiring periodic supplemental appropriations,” wrote Hegar in a special edition of his newsletter called FiscalNotes.
Monday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a state budget for fiscal years 2018-2019 which adds $316 million to mitigate the funding shortfall, according to the Statesman.
Retirees said it’s still a fraction of the amount needed to make up for the shortfall and still does not raise the state’s contribution to the fund.
Hill and Merriman said lawmakers have betrayed teachers and are leaving them to face a financial hit this September that many can’t afford.