News Roundup: Skyrocketing Premiums Led 30,000 Retired Teachers To Exit State Insurance Plan

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelSeptember 7, 2018 1:50 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

More than 30,000 retired teachers and their dependents dropped out of their state-backed health insurance program this year. This came after Texas officials enacted higher deductibles and premiums to help stave off a billion-dollar budget shortfall.

Brian Guthrie heads the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

This week, he told members of the Texas House Appropriations Committee he was a bit surprised by which people abandoned the healthcare program known as TRS-Care.

“If you may recall during last session I testified that I thought we that we would see a decrease in membership, but it would primarily be the pre-65 population.  That was not the case, actually most of the folks who left are Medicare eligible,” Guthrie says.

The number of remaining participants in TRS-Care is now just over 230,000. The Austin American-Statesman reports that typically only about 1,500 people leave the system each year.

Guthrie also told lawmakers the system is facing a $410 million budget shortfall in the years 2020 and 2021.

The Austin Police Department confirms no officers will be indicted for shooting at the man behind several bomb attacks last spring, according to KUT News.

A Williamson County grand jury on Thursday declined to charge an APD officer who fired on Mark Conditt just before he killed himself with a bomb in his car in Round Rock. Such grand jury inquiries are often routine for police-involved shootings. APD Chief Brian Manley says aerial police video of the incident shows officers acted appropriately.

“The video release, again, will highlight the actions that the officers took and I think what it will demonstrate is the power of the explosive devices that this bomber constructed and that detonated in our community,” Manley says.

Manley says it’s still not clear if APD will release a 25-minute confession video left by Conditt before his death. The bombings that killed two people and injured four others is still under investigation.

In Houston, officials say mothers and their kids are dropping out of a nutritional assistance program at an unprecedented rate.

Elizabeth Trovall with Houston Public Media has more on how immigration policy could be playing a role in decreases occurring across the state.

Houston Health Department officials say they’ve seen a 20 percent drop in caseloads for WIC. That program provides health and nutrition assistance to low-income pregnant mothers and their kids.

“This is the first time that we lose this many clients in such a short period of time,” Says Zahra Koopaei, who runs the federally-funded program for the City of Houston.

“Since [the] election we went from 72,000 caseload to right now we’re barely (at) 58,000.”

She says families have left the program, fearing it could affect their immigration status or lead to deportation. Koopaei says her team is working harder than ever to clear up misconceptions and sign people up for the program. Since last year, statewide WIC participation dropped 10 percent.