When I opened the Hickory Record Friday morning there was a letter to the editor from a former school superintendent – who argued Senate Bill 467 would deny retired teachers state health insurance. That sounded like hard-hearted Republicans were going to deny sixty-six-year-old retired teachers going on Social Security health insurance. But the former superintendent omitted a key part of the story.
Right now, a teacher can retire after working for the state for 20 years, and the state will continue to pay for his or her health insurance. A teacher could retire at fifty and every month for the next 15 years the state would pay for their health insurance – until they’re 65 and enroll in Medicare.
Just two months ago the State Treasurer reported the State Retiree Health Care Fund’s debt has skyrocketed $10 billion over the past year – which means taxpayers are now on the hook to pay $60 billion in debt owed by the entire state retirement system.
That is why I supported a simple change: As long as an employee works for the state he or she will receive state health insurance. And when they no longer work for the state they no longer receive state health insurance. Which is exactly how most businesses handle health insurance.
This change does not affect current employees or retirees.
The superintendent’s letter concluded, “Teachers just can’t get ahead.” But teacher pay has been steadily increasing. And it’s troubling to read a retired superintendent, who receives a $120,000 a year pension, arguing benefits for state employees are not adequate.