More than two dozen retirees attend a hearing in support of the bill, sharing stories about how health costs impact their livelihoods
After teaching for more than 30 years, retired educators, like Mary Dunn struggle financially. Dunn is forced to use her entire pension check to pay for her and husband’s health insurance.
“A retirement plan that means living in poverty is not how Maine educators should be thanked for the many years of commitment and service we give to our students,” said Mary Dunn a retired educator from Waterville.
Dunn will be among the educators who will testify in front of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on Monday, February 4th at 1pm in support of LD 178. The bill will increase the State contribution to retired teacher’s health insurance by 5% each year until the benefit reaches 90% paid by the State. Currently, the State contributes just 45% of the cost of health insurance to retired teachers, with teachers required to pay the rest. This contrasts with most State worker retirees who receive their health insurance paid in full by the State upon retirement. For reference, an estimated 1,000 retired teachers are not eligible for Medicare, so the State benefit is their only option for health insurance.
“Teachers give it all for their students and in their time of retirement, the State should take care of its teachers. It is crucial the State provide an equitable and fair health insurance benefit contribution for our retired educators, especially as costs continue to rise,” said Grace Leavitt, President of the Maine Education Association.
The financial burden for teachers is compounded by a federal law that doesn’t allow people who collect a State pension to receive their full Social Security benefits, if they worked in a previous job outside of education. In addition, teachers do not have access to their spouse’s Social Security benefit, should their spouse die first. Teachers who have only worked in public schools do not receive any Social Security, only the State pension, which is their only guaranteed retirement benefit. These federal laws truly impact the amount of money teachers receive in retirement, and further increase the need for the State to increase its benefit to the cost of health insurance in retirement.