Dear Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick,
I can’t sleep. How can you?
It is past midnight, and I have to be up by 5:30 tomorrow morning in order to be at an imaging center in the Rio Grande Valley when they open. I have to be there for a sonogram. I can’t sleep because of anxiety over the results. But my anxiety is even greater as I consider the cost associated with this sonogram. One year ago, I would not have had this level of anxiety over a necessary medical procedure. One year ago, I had affordable insurance.
I am a retired Texas teacher. I taught in Texas schools for 29 years. For 29 years, I worked with the promise of affordable healthcare during my career and in retirement. It was understood that in exchange for a salary that did not come close to matching my education and experience, I would have the benefit of knowing I could pay for necessary medical procedures.
I have not been to a medical doctor since January. I have avoided going at all cost because of what the two of you, most members of the Texas Senate, and several members of the Texas House did to my insurance and to the insurance of my fellow retired public school teachers, custodians, bus drivers, librarians, nurses, secretaries, classroom aides, administrators, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers, and police officers.
For the first four years of my retirement, you and the Texas Legislature kept the promise I lived by for 29 years. I had a $400 deductible and a copay for my doctors’ visits, medical procedures, and prescription drugs. But since January, all of that has changed. Now I have a $1500 deductible and no copay. Instead, I have to pay 100 percent of the bill for my doctors’ visits, medical procedures, and prescription drugs out of pocket until I reach that $1500. Once I reach that, I still have to pay 20 percent. Do you know how much $1500 is to a retired public school employee? (And it is $3000 for anyone who has a spouse on his/her plan.)
While I can’t sleep tonight as I worry about the cost for tomorrow’s sonogram. I would guess you two are sleeping just fine. After all, your insurance, provided by the state, is far greater than ours. One only has to compare ERS healthcare (for all other retired state employees and retired Texas legislators) to TRS healthcare (provided to my colleagues and me) to see the injustice. While ERS retirees are living with promises kept, we are all living with promises broken, and an incredible number of my colleagues are going broke and choosing to forego medical care as a result.
Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick, I had my last sonogram in December. The radiologist recommended that I have “tissue sampling”; however, in talking to my surgeon and knowing the healthcare nightmare I would be living starting in January, I opted to wait six months for a follow-up sonogram. I am praying that I made the right decision, a decision I forced upon me because you and those members of the Texas Legislature who followed your lead decided we were no longer worthy of the affordable healthcare we had been promised throughout our careers.
I can’t help but think about so many of my colleagues across the state who have endured sleepless nights since January. I have posted many of their stories. Scores of us have called your office and sent you messages but with no response. Rep. Terry Canales and Rep. José Menéndez were the first to formally ask you to call a Special Session to deal with our healthcare crisis. I recently learned that another Valley legislator. Rep. Ryan Guillen, requested in February that you call a Special Session.
Our calls and emails and their formal pleas for a Special Session have been blatantly ignored.
While we lie awake, you sleep. While you get the healthcare you need, we do not. While all other state retirees and Texas legislators continue to enjoy affordable healthcare, we live this nightmare.
Another day, another week, another month with no response from either of you regarding a Special Session. Another day, another week, another month wondering how you could break a promise we believed in for so many years.
How can you sleep?
Retired Texas Teacher Living the TRS Nightmare
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen)