According to Harbin, the bottom line for retirees covered by the plan: If the reserves run out, retirees under 65 would see premiums that had ranged from nothing, for single coverage, to an average $276 a month for family coverage rise next year to between $310 and $515 a month.
According to Atwood, the bottom line for her: Rethinking her own plan for the future - a plan already made complicated by a bout with cancer.
"I could have retired seven years ago, when teachers and state employees can retire after 27 years of employment, but I decided to stay on, and one of the main reasons was that I was looking forward to the excellent coverage of the medical insurance plans as a retiree," Atwood said.
"Kentucky teachers, compared to other states, are not paid large salaries, but the state's retirement benefit plan has provided an incentive to retain current teachers and attract new teachers," she said. "But if the plan is not fully funded - as was promised in 2004 under House Bill 434 - then the incentive is gone and a lot of teachers are faced with a dilemma."
Her dilemma compounded by cancer
That dilemma is compounded for Atwood because of breast cancer that struck her a few years ago. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, research-based stem cell therapy and radiation. She said she used 175 of the 200 sick days she had accumulated at that time, noting that the state had paid 30 percent of her salary per sick day and that the sick days were included the formula calculating her retirement benefits.
She said she finds herself between a rock and a hard place.
"If nothing is done to provide adequate funding for the plan, I wouldn't be able to do as other retirees would do and find cheaper plans than the state offers because I wouldn't be accepted due to my prior condition, my cancer," she said.
"So I may have to consider postponing my retirement, waiting until I'm older and qualify for lower premiums under the state plan and, then at 65, go on Medicare."
Meanwhile, Bob Davenport, executive director of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, said that charging higher premiums will put a dent in retirees' benefits.
"The average pension for a retired teacher is $1,800 a month, and premiums of up to $515 a month would definitely put a bite into that fixed income," Davenport said.
Davenport is calling for all members of his association to lobby both the governor and their lawmakers to add the funding necessary to keep the insurance plan afloat.
There are 24,275 KRTA members statewide and 686 in the five-county area, including 205 in Boyle; 112 in Casey; 65 in Garrard; 186 in Lincoln; and 118 in Mercer. From 65 percent (Garrard) to 95 percent (Lincoln) of retired teachers are members of the association.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.