A proposal by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin impacting the health coverage of retired teachers is causing alarm among many educators. Bevin has proposed eliminating $145 million in state funding for the health insurance of retired teachers.
After months of watching Kentucky lawmakers grapple with possible changes that could affect teacher pensions, the proposed cut in the upcoming two-year budget was another blow to retired educators.
Tim Abrams is executive director of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association. He said teachers who have dedicated 27 years or more to students feel like they have not been shown much respect in pension and budgeting considerations.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook from teachers all over the state, retired teachers wanting to know, ‘What’s going to happen to my insurance? What do I need to do? Who do I need to call?’ And they’re very alarmed,” said Abrams.
He said the proposed funding cut to health insurance could affect more than 10,000 retired teachers in the state, including those who are currently on the Kentucky Employees Health Plan and others who are eligible for that insurance.
State officials said retired teachers are only guaranteed access to group health insurance.
Abrams said if state funding is cut, retired teachers who would be affected would have to pay about $6,000 a year for health insurance.
“I think it will hurt attracting new teachers and it may even hurt with existing teachers that are in the field. It will hurt both recruitment and retention," said Abrams. "I feel like teachers across the state feel like they haven’t been shown a lot of respect through this entire process.”
He said although educators’ salaries are relatively modest, pension and health care benefits help retain dedicated teachers.
Abrams said KRTA and others are contacting legislators about Gov. Bevin’s proposed budget cut in an effort to have the Kentucky General Assembly take action to keep the funding for health insurance, and to keep the promise teachers believe the state made them to them when they signed on to teach Kentucky’s children.