Spring 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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Page 22 of 43 | 23 spring 2016 Debates about school fnance move from theoretical to personal when the discussions focus on how much an educator spends out of pocket for healthcare benefts and how much is left over at the end of every month. In Houston, almost every educator on the Waltrip High School campus has a story about how they, a student, a spouse, or a child have struggled to navigate the healthcare maze. Mary Gibson is Waltrip's school nurse. She agrees that one of the biggest challenges is rising costs, which means many will delay treatment until the condition reaches "emergency room" status. She sees more and more students—and educators—relying on her expertise as a frst step in seeking care. "Kids come to school sick and spread illnesses to their teachers and classmates," she says. "I've seen everything from colds and pink eye to diabetes, kidney failure, and meningitis, to mental health issues." But it wasn't until Gibson lost her husband that the full weight of the healthcare crisis hit home. Gibson was paying almost $1,000 per month to insure herself and her husband. Her husband was retired and had Medicare, but because she worked for a large employer, the rules required her to cover her husband on her policy. This made his Medicare coverage "secondary" and reduced her take-home pay to around $900 per paycheck. "My husband was a cardiac patient," she says. "And when his cardiologist moved away, we were unable to locate another cardiologist who would accept our insurance plan. While we searched for a doctor, he died." Gibson's healthcare struggle continued when she became sick about three years ago. She was diagnosed with gall bladder disease and told to contact a surgeon. While she searched for a surgeon who would accept her insurance plan, her condition worsened, and ultimately, the surgery was done as an emergency procedure at Memorial Hermann hospital. What should have been a relatively simple procedure became a much more complex surgery requiring a lengthy, and painful, recovery. Through her personal experiences, and those of her colleagues and students, Gibson's job has Navigating the HEALTHCARE MAZE T he word "healthcare" can prompt animated debates about the perceived success or failure of the Afordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as "Obamacare." Te law was enacted in 2010 with the intent of making healthcare available to more American families. Most of the law's provisions are already in place, although changes will continue to occur through 2022. In this article, ATPE explores how the changing healthcare environment afects educators. S T ORY BY G . E L A I N E AC K E R P H O T O S BY J OH N K I L P P E R Healthcare on Campus

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