Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dear Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Texas Legislators…How Could You?

           
             Last week I was invited to serve as a judge for a local high school election.  One of the other judges is also a retired Texas teacher.  She worked in Texas public schools for 31 years.  Over lunch, she told me and the other two judges about her most recent healthcare nightmare, compliments of the Texas Legislature.
            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?

26 comments:

  1. My sugar meds went from $30 a month to $475 a month. Even with a 50% off coupon still over $200 a month. Had to call doctor, he changed my meds to one that was covered.

    ReplyDelete
  2. One of my Rx medications went from $9/mo to $278/mo WITH a coupon. My husband & I have cancelled our blood work & all medical appointments knowing we will have to pay 100% until we have paid $3000 out of pocket. Before Jan 1st, our insurance paid 100% of our blood work and we paid a minimal copay for our medical appointments; not to mention the $350/mo increase in premiums.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cindy ~ I feel your pain. One of my prescriptions went from $65 for a 3-month supply to $1825.20 for the same 3-month supply! I would like to strangle our legislators, beginning with Rick Perry!

      Delete
  3. My Rx this year have totaled over $2000 already. When I meet my (married) deductible, they’ll go down to “only” $400 a quarter ... until next January, when we’ll start over. It’s about $5000 a year. #sigh

    ReplyDelete
  4. After 32 years of being a teacher and counselor, I can't afford 3 of my prescription medications--two are for diabetes. One is $900 a month, one is $800 a month, and one is $700 a month...that's a combined total of $2400...$480 a month AFTER the deductible is met. The stress and worry about this issue is keeping me awake at night. I just turned 60. I'm looking at five years before I can see any assistance! Our legislators should be ashamed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Karen Signor - I am so so sorry. It's shameful!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cindy - How could this have happened? How can they look themselves in the mirror, knowing what they have done to us? How can we just not get the medical help we need?

    Karen (Morgan) Bratsen - Unbelievable! I was never a big Rick Perry fan, but he looks like a jewel next to Gov. Greg Abbott!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Scott - Shameful! Here's hoping you have no other medical needs during this year of nightmares!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Melody - I don't even have the words to respond to how shameful, how frightening, and how sad that is. How could they???

    ReplyDelete
  9. Why don't retired teachers run for the Texas legislature, and governor, and Lt. governor? Why doesn't someone run on a campaign of helping teachers earn a just salary while working and retirement benefits equal to other professions? I believe that the state of Texas should pool all state workers in a health care system and retirement system. It could provide better coverage while saving tons of money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A very talented and exceptionally qualified School Supt tried to win a house seat this past election and he was outspent by big money and lost the election. I honestly thought there were enough educators within that House District to elect him; but, either they didn't agree, or they didn't bother to go vote

      Delete
    2. Or they don't have a clue or are still too party oriented. You'd be surprised (maybe not) how many retired educators I talked with while volunteering for my state representative pre-primary believed Patrick's promise of a big raise, were satisfied with him, actually "liked" him, or was unaware of the movement to oust him. There are still a lot of educators that just take what is dished out to them. Hopefully for the general election more disgruntled voters will show up at the polls. Work to be done to get the word out. It is not painful to vote for "the other side." Vote what is right.

      Delete
  10. During Rick Perry's first campaign for governor, James Moore, one of the co-authors of "Bush's Brain," ominously predicted: "Rick Perry will make you miss George W. Bush."
    When Greg Abbott ran, Mr. Moore warned Texas voters: "Greg Abbott will make you miss Rick Perry."
    Abbott currently has a 59% approval rating.
    It takes a certain degree of abject disdain for one's fellow human beings to collect a huge settlement when an accident puts him in a wheelchair for life and then turn around and vigorously advocate changing the law so future victims of similar tragedies will be precluded from receiving any compensation.
    That encapsulates the governor of whom 59% of Texans apparently approve.

    ReplyDelete
  11. In private sector, we paid out of pocket till deductible met then 80/20 till out of pocket met. That is standard, big pharmacy is the cause, state employees can't change that only our congress can. Trump been on that with democrats clawing all the way. You want lower prices challenge the democrats to stop taking the money along with the few republicans. The swamp you hear about or some call the shadow government is the Monsanto and big pharmacies. What do you think it costs for all the Viagra commercials, they get it back at $100 a pill. Let Trump drain the swamp and we can get health car under control. Better yet get a bill that will let teachers sign up for Social Security. The Texas Health system and retirement system was mishandled and lost money (lost is when its put in others pockets). Just think Texas Teacher Association actually gives money to planned parenthood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Comrade you are wrong. Trump is actually trying to destroy what little healthcare you have left. It is not the dems that fight healthcare, it is the repubs. The point is the legislature can renege on promises they made, but after a teacher has retired, they are on a fixed amount. I know you as just a fox viewer will not hear these truths I am saying, but they still had to be said. You mention the mishandle and lost money, but I remember when TRS appointed of course by repub. gov, actually gave 350 million to prop up Enron two weeks before they went under. BTW, the teacher retirement fund is stable, the gov, and legislature want to be able to take the fund over.

      Delete
  12. Replies
    1. Oh my gosh...obamacare put us in this predicument!! Get a clue already!

      Delete
  13. And remember if you retired after 2005 (I believe) and you want to go back to work full time in the public education system be prepared to pay a penalty of 15,000!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. In private sector, most have health insurance plans that include co-pay provisions. TRS-Care via Aetna for pre-65 TRS retirees does not; we have to pay FULL COST of doctor visits, urgent care visits, emergency room visits, & prescriptions, until we have paid at least $1,500.00 out-of-pocket deductible before the 80/20 starts to kick in.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I’m not a teacher but I am a state employee. Our deductible went up to $6,500! We have not had a raise in years. It’s time for a change.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Michael Clay SmithMarch 28, 2018 at 2:19 PM

    I started planning my retirement and using the information I had from the state made my decision in the spring of 2016 to retire at the end of the 2017 school year. Little did I know that later that summer the state of Texas would pull the insurance I thought I would have right out from under me. One of my prescriptions went from a $65 co-pay for 3 months to $1450 and of course it was too late to rescind the retirement papers and go back to work. The insanity boggles my mind. If I had known I would have somehow gutted it up and finished till I turned 65. Patrick and Abbott are vultures.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is disturbing! But, as a private user, my deductible is 10,000. so, I just have found coupons or done without prescriptions. One eye drop was over $200. as was an estrogen cream. The pharmaceutical companies are to blame but our government leaders have no right to have separate and special insurance.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm neither a teacher nor a retired teacher. I think it's shameful that teachers are apparently respected so little by those in power. My only guess is that they prefer an ignorant electorate to keep them in power. I've recently been shocked that my insulin is suddenly not covered under my discount plan (BLINK HEALTH). Then I found out that BLINK was actually created by the Big Pharma giant ELI LILLY. They withdrew all of their insulin products from BLINK coverage with absolutely no notice to patients. I have no choice but to start ordering from Canada. Good luck, and thanks to all teachers for the important job they do...!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am confused...My husband & I are retired teachers now on the Humana Advantage. We pay $135 a month each deducted from our Teacher retirement(we use to pay less) and we still pay about $100 each for Medicare. Our deductible is $500 each and our medications are a little cheaper than when we were on TRScare. We aren't happy with the change, but so far our experience is not the nightmare that some people seem to be having. Luckily we have not had any major surgeries or hospitalizations - that may be when the nightmare starts. Are there different teacher retirement medical plans that pay differently? We were both signed up for the lowest deductible when we were on TRScare. I retired in 2000 and my husband retired in 2013.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Add insult to injury, my oncologist sadly told me he no longer accepts the Medicare Advantage plan that Texas Teachers have. He accepts regular Medicare, but the new Medicare Advantage plan from TRS pays the medical provider LESS than regular Medicare. When I received my claim info, my insurance plan paid him only $15.00 and didn't cover any of the lab fees. I hate our new medical coverage!! We pay more in monthly premiums, have higher deductibles, higher out of pocket limits, and receive less coverage!!! HOW COULD THEY!?

    ReplyDelete