Healthcare costs drive Las Vegas teachers out of the profession – The Nevada Independent

I started teaching more than 20 years ago and have worked in Clark County schools for nearly a decade. Over the years, I have met hundreds of wonderful educators who share my passion to invest in students’ educational development.

I love what I do, but as one of many Nevada residents living with a chronic illness, I’m struggling to afford the care I need, according to the Clark County School District Health Plan (The Teachers Health Trust). Without federal action to reduce health care costs, I may be forced to do what many of my former colleagues have done and leave the profession that interests me so deeply.

I was diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases, including mixed connective tissue disease and rheumatic polymyalgia. I need a variety of medications to treat my condition, including regular injections to reduce the risk of bone fractures from osteoporosis.

When I first moved to Las Vegas to teach in 2013, our Teachers Health Trust (THT) health plan was then called the Cadillac Plan. Teachers in Las Vegas could see a doctor as often as we wanted, and they could see specialists without a referral. Unfortunately, THT was poorly managed and accumulated millions of debts, leaving teachers like me forced to pay more out of pocket for health care.

All my labs and medications have been covered by THT, but with each passing year, fewer and fewer treatments seem to be covered, leaving me without access to the care I need. I now have a $ 500 deduction for my lab tests and I won’t be able to afford all the labs I need.

What’s worse is that my osteoporosis treatments are no longer covered, which means I have to pay for each of my $ 1,500 injections. Skipping doses is just not an option for me. I tried to go without the medication and I can’t even get dressed for the pain.

As challenging as my own expenses are, many of my peers in the teaching profession are much worse off than I am. Every month, when my colleague with type 1 diabetes goes to fulfill her insulin prescription, she receives the same notice: our insurance plan will not cover the specific insulin prescribed by her doctor and which works best for her.

I know countless teachers who have to pay hundreds of dollars every month just to get the recipes they need to stay alive. This is unsustainable and is happening to tens of thousands of teachers and millions of families across the country.

Voters across the country say rising prices for prescription drugs are a major problem, and according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey, about 30 percent of Americans say they have not taken their medications as prescribed because of high levels. costs. These are dangerous choices that no one should make.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress understand this and are working to reduce costs by introducing legislation that will limit insulin surcharges to $ 35 a month, allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, and require manufacturers to to pay discounts if drug prices rise. faster than inflation. However, people like me are suffering and we need relief.

Nevada is in the midst of a huge shortage of teachers. The Clark County School District alone has more than 1,000 vacancies, and the number has risen sharply since the beginning of the school year.

It should come as no surprise. In addition to concerns about COVID, classroom safety, and burnout, Las Vegas teachers like me are worried about our health plan. Our insurance refuses to cover vital prescriptions for teachers, leaving us to pay the full cost of the necessary medicines. Without action to reduce health care costs, I’m worried it will become another vacancy in the Clark County School District.

It is time for patients and families to come first. Nevada residents like me are counting on Congress to pass legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and make health care more accessible to teachers and Americans across the country. Our lives, our work and our students depend on it.

Vicki Cridell lives in North Las Vegas, where she works as a teacher in the Clark County School District and is president of the National Education Association of Southern Nevada.

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