Lawmakers Look for Long-Term Fix for Teacher Insurance

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A committee dedicated to finding solutions to a chronically underfunded teacher insurance plan says concerns over changes to retirement plans are unwarranted.

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force held a hearing for preliminary discussions Tuesday to address long term solvency issues for both teachers and state employees insurance.

The meeting included discussion of "potential combination of retirement systems" which brought out dozens of retired teachers and state employees to show their opposition to the idea.

Eric Gore, a retired employee with the Pulaski County Special School District, says he was guarding against potential unintended consequences of any change to retirement plans.

"As a retiree I don't want nothing interfering with my income, I've worked too hard for it," Gore says.

Committee chair Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) says the committee needed to hear specifics on how the retirement system is funded and its financial health compared to the troubled health insurance plan.

"There's nothing worse than people who are depending on a monthly check, threatening that, or believing that it's threatened," Hendren. "There was nobody here that wanted to do anything that would reduce retirement benefits to teachers. But there is an absolute obligation when taxpayers are spending over a half a billion dollars on these programs, to make sure that they're managed right."

Hendren says the task force will likely make additional recommendations, including the possibility of combining Arkansas State Employee (ASE) and Public School Employee (PSE) health insurance plans, for the general assembly to take up when the next legislative session starts in January.

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