By San Antonio Express-News

State lawmakers need to come up with a long-term solution for funding the health costs of Texas’ retired teachers.

Tweaks in the last year will keep the TRS-Care solvent through the 2019 fiscal year, but the plan has a projected $400 million shortfall by the end of 2021.

Balancing it on the shoulders of the more than 250,00 retirees is not the answer. Placing the responsibility on school districts that are already shouldering more of the cost of public education only results in yet another unfunded mandate for local taxpayers.

There are many factors to blame for the funding woes. Early retirement of teachers before they qualify for Medicare, increased longevity, and skyrocketing medical and prescription medicine cost are all playing a role. However, some of the blame rests squarely on the Texas Legislature for creating the program in 1985 with a less-than-stable financial foundation. The plan is supported primarily by contributions from the state, school districts and working teachers.

Many of those contributions are set as a percentage of teachers’ payroll, and in the last decade teachers have not enjoyed much in pay raises.

Some retirees have been forced to return to the workforce to cover the escalating premiums and deductibles. Many are going back to the classroom as substitute teachers, but not all retirees have that option. Many suffer from chronic illnesses or are family caregivers.

Retired teachers did not teach for the money. There were promises made along the way about what they could expect come retirement. One of those commitments was health insurance.

The state needs to live up to that commitment.