Arkansas Teachers Concerned With Health Insurance Changes

LITTLE ROCK -- State legislators discussed the state's troubled "Public Teacher Insurance Program" on Tuesday at a special called legislative session. Public school employees in Arkansas are facing a 35% health insurance rate increase this fall. One proposal by the legislative task-force would be to eliminate part-time employees and spouses who have other health care options. That's estimated to save between $40-50 million to help off-set the cost.

In the meantime, teachers are paying close attention to the deliberations on finding a way to get the program back on track. Public school teacher Shelly Smith attended the senate meeting to see how the decision would effect her future.

"A lot of people are not on board with the actual content of the bills. They were talking about a death spiral. In other words, costs going are up, participation is going down. Umm, they've known about this since 2008 or earlier," Smith said. "Everything is in flux right now. It's really hard to get a bead on where we're going to be a year from now. They're looking at their budgets going, 'Well there goes two-thirds of my paycheck. What am I supposed to do?'"

Some legislators joined the employees in asking, and voicing frustration with, the unknowns. 

"With these changes, how short are they going to be?" said State Senator Larry Teague.

Both the House and Senate are expected to convene just one minute after midnight to take their final votes on this issue, along with others. The bills will then be passed on to the governor for approval.

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