Over 1,400 of Alabama’s public school and college employees plan a mass exodus from their jobs on Dec. 1 due to mandated health insurance fee hikes, according to the Birmingham News.

That’s nearly six times the number who planned to retire a year ago, the paper said. The number of potential retirees covered by the Teachers’ Retirement System could go higher after Tuesday’s deadline to file the necessary paperwork.

About 400 other workers enrolled in the Employees’ Retirement System also submitted papers to retire, a four-fold increase over the same time last year.

Costs for health care premiums are slated to more than double over the next five years based on a phased-in schedule of increases approved by the Legislature. Employees are retiring to avoid the rate hike. The Legislature also increased employee contributions toward pensions. The costs increase Jan. 1.

There have been suggestions that to avoid so many losses mid-year, the Legislature should change the increase date to July 1 during a special session expected to be called to address Jefferson County’s sewer debt problems.

However, Gov. Robert Bentley has yet to call a special session, and has cast doubt on whether it will be held because the county’s legislators have not come to agreement on providing fiscal relief.

Some lawmakers have said they are waiting to see the detailed agreement for the debt restructuring before determining what action to take. The agreement was to have been prepared and signed by creditors by mid-October.

However, county officials have said that due to the sheer number of creditors signing the agreement, it has taken longer than anticipated.

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