She is living with diabetes and uses the Tresiba FlexTouch insulin pen. Before the Texas Legislature created the healthcare nightmare for retired Texas public school teachers, bus drivers, custodians, librarians, nurses, classroom aides, administrators, maintenance workers, secretaries, and counselors during the 2017 Legislative Session, she paid $45 for this prescription for four boxes of pens. After January 1, she went to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. The clerk, who knew her, struggled to get the words out of her mouth. Finally, her voice cracking and her eyes doleful, she uttered, “It will be $1492.00”
As one might imagine, this retired Texas teacher stood there, stunned. Fourteen hundred and ninety-two dollars. She could not afford it, so she left the pharmacy in tears.
She said she went home and could not stop crying. She didn’t know what to do because she didn’t have an extra $1492.00 lying around, yet she knew she could not live without her insulin. Completely distraught, she spent the remainder of the day sobbing.
(For those who do not know the background--the Texas Legislature decided to increase our deductible from $400 to $1500 starting January 1, also forcing us to pay 100 percent of all healthcare and prescription costs out of pocket until the entire deductible is met. (Married couples must pay $3000 out of pocket before one penny of theirs is covered.) After reaching the 100-percent-out-of-pocket deductible, our new nightmare insurance pays 80/20. The Texas Legislature did this while keeping all other state employees—AND retired legislators—on a plan through ERS (Employees Retirement System of Texas, the other state-controlled retirement system) with a $0 deductible for all healthcare, a $50 deductible for prescriptions, and a $0 monthly premium.)
Now back to the story. A few hours later, this retired teacher received a phone call from the clerk at the pharmacy. She had made some calls and was somehow able to get the cost of the prescription reduced dramatically. I couldn’t help but feel a great deal of admiration for this clerk, who obviously went above and beyond for her customer. I also couldn’t help but feel embarrassed and disgusted that Texas public school employees have been forced by the Texas Legislature to resort to begging in order to receive the affordable healthcare we were promised throughout our careers and when we made the decision to retire.
As I keep saying, what’s good for the educator is good for the legislator!
Last week, I promised to provide you with information on how the pension of a retired Texas legislator is figured. I will use myself for comparison:
ME: I taught in Texas public schools for 29 years. When I decided to retire, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas looked at my highest five salaries and took the average, which was just over $61,000. After 29 years of teaching, I would earn 66.7 percent of that average.
TEXAS LEGISLATOR: According to Ballotpedia, Texas legislators earn $600 per month. They also earn a $190 per diem while in Austin or on official business. After serving only eight years as a legislator, he/she can retire at the age of 60. If he/she wishes to retire at age 50, only 12 years of service is required. But wait! The Texas legislators’ pension is not based on the salary they earn while serving. Instead, it is based on the salary of a state district judge, which is $140,000. And guess who determines the salary of a state district judge? You guessed it, the Texas Legislature. (Retired Texas public school employees—can you remember the last time we received a Cost-of-Living increase? I’m sure you can’t. However, September 1, 2013, the annual state salary of a district judge increased from $125,000 to $140,000.)
Here is another comparison for you:
TRS Retiree: If a TRS retiree wants to return to work in a Texas public school, he/she is not allowed to do so for 12 months after retirement.
ERS Retiree: If an ERS retiree wants to return to work for a state agency, he/she only has to wait 90 days to do so.
My fellow retired teacher’s story about the healthcare nightmare she is living is only one of countless stories across the state. I have but one question this week for Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and all of the Texas senators and representatives who created this nightmare for all of us who dedicated our careers to the children in this state: HOW COULD YOU?