I am standing before you tonight to represent the concerns of members of the Evansville Teachers Association with the changes in the insurance plan which become effective on May 1. Let me first say that I understand how difficult and complicated this issue is, and I recognize there are many factors you must consider in order to arrive at a decision. We know that the ever-increasing costs of health insurance will place a financial burden on someone. These costs take the form of higher premiums, reductions in benefits, or as in this case, increases in deductibles, out of pocket maximums, copays, and prescription costs. I want to be clear: I acknowledge that a high number of our members do not meet the current deductibles or out of pocket maximums, and therefore are not likely to feel a significant impact from these changes. But, for that relatively small number of individuals who will be impacted, and who are shouldering all of the financial burden with these changes, I sincerely hope that you have considered the severity of that impact.
For the chronically ill patient who requires ongoing treatment – the type of individual who meets the out of pocket maximum on a regular basis – the increase in that maximum expense represents more than 7% of what they will be paid in salary over the same 8 month period, assuming they are at the top of the scale with a Masters degree. And, if they are in a situation that is so unfortunate that they meet the family out of pocket maximum, that increase is nearly 14.5% of their salary over the same time frame. For many of these individuals, they will not only be dealing with a health crisis, they will also be facing a financial crisis.
Let me share with you just two of the many very real concerns from members that I received since Friday.
“My wife and I are having twins in June. We have been budgeting all year for it…but now it is going to cost us [twice as much]! How are we supposed to change our plans to accommodate the extra [expense] that quickly?...I understand that they have to work with the money they have, but they can't make such huge changes without giving people enough time to plan accordingly.”
“I have [a condition] and can barely pay my current medical bills with [my current treatment]. It makes me feel very sick to think about this. It really, really scares me that I may have to make a decision to either bankrupt my family or stop my treatment.”
Insurance is supposed to protect against an undue financial burden, but for some of my members, these changes will cause one. A family does not saddle its most needy members with the full burden of a hardship; they pull together, share the burden, and help one another. I look at the Association as a family, and as President, I have an obligation to continue to search for some way to assist those members who may be unduly burdened by these changes in insurance over the next 8 months. The EVSC is often referred to as a family as well, and as leaders of the EVSC, I hope you will join me in that search, whether it be in direct assistance, establishing a fund through the EVSC Foundation, or some other mechanism. They did not choose their condition, and they did not choose this level of insurance, and until they are provided with a choice, I ask that you join me in finding a way to help the most needy members of our family.