Teachers Talk High Health Insurance Rates

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Important agenda items are added to a special called legislative session beginning Monday.

Those issues include addressing the prison overcrowding problem, a monitor-style lottery game and public school employee insurance.

Public school employees face a 35% health insurance rate increase this fall.

But a legislative task force came up with an estimated $40-50 million savings to help offset the cost.

Unfortunately it comes at another cost...eliminating part time employees from the plan and spouses who have other health care options.

Little Rock teacher Latrecia Smith said she had to make changes to accommodate for the high insurance rates.

She said, "The new rates would have basically taken half of my paycheck."

Hot Springs teacher Paul Logan said, "And it's not just a matter of our teachers crying we need money, money, money. That's not what we're doing. We're saying we don't want our pay cut."

Logan says it's not a pity party for teachers, it's about being fair.

His out of pocket insurance cost could skyrocket to $8,000 next school year.

Logan said, "I want to do that in terms of a pay cut. It means that within two years, I have gotten $4000 in pay cuts per year."

Michele Linch -- with the Arkansas State Teachers Association -- says if the state chose to move to a more affordable health care plan sooner, lawmakers wouldn't be in this predicament today.

Linch said, "We are definitely at a crisis point in terms of fixing this problem and finding a long term solution."

Logan says he just hopes a permanent fix happens soon because he's concerned about the future of Arkansas education.

He said, "How many good students, potentially very strong teachers, are going to take one look at that and go skedaddle to something else? I know of one who did. My son."

As far as a long-term solution goes, one hasn't been figured out yet.

But a legislative task force was created to work on the issue.

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