in Houston, Texas
Terrifying or reasonable? Texas state employees would pay more for health insurance under budgets for Employees Retirement System
Monday, Apr 04, 2011, 11:01AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state Capitol

A nearly $600 million shortfall in the Employees Retirement System budget will almost certainly mean higher premiums or the establishment of a deductible for state employees and retirees.

The Austin American-Statesman does the kind of math for current and former state employees that private-sector employees have been doing in their dens on their solar-powered calculators for some time now.

To make up for a $591 million or 19 percent reduction in the $3 billion system budget proposed by the House and Senate, state employees and retirees would pay $186 a month more in premiums for their family coverage or $95 a month more for themselves.

That translates to state workers picking up 20 percent of their health insurance costs for themselves and 60 percent for family members. The state currently offers full coverage for employees and half coverage for family members.

The alternative is a $3,400 deductible for full coverage or a $2,400 deductible for 80 percent coverage, according to the Statesman. Right now, state employees have no deductible, and their representatives used words like “scary” and “terrifying” to describe the prospect of their paying more.

Placed very high in the story is a statement that these cuts will be painful for state workers and retirees from their spokesman, Andy Homer, director of government relations for the Texas Public Employees Association.

"The point is, this will make health care unaffordable for a significant portion of employees," Homer said.

Placed much lower in the story as if to suggest his statement is much less important, is Talmadge Heflin, director of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Fiscal Policy. State employees ought not to be fully insulated from hard economic times, he says.

"In times when there's a shortage of funds or less revenue and the state has to cut back on the funding, just like in a lot of private industry, the employees are called on many times to pick up a greater share of higher deductible or co-pay," Heflin told the Statesman. "It's reasonable for the employees to share with the taxpayers the cost."
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or

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Thursday, 04/07/2011 - 04:32PM

Well, i guess I won't be getting any money in my check. It will all go for insurance and retirement. No food to eat or money for rent, but by God I've got insurance. Texas sure is a great state.

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