Legislative Updates

Questions About Medicare Advantage Answered

Many members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) who are age 65 or over have called and emailed asking about the probable changes that will occur with their medical insurance after the legislative session ends. While there are many questions to address regarding all of the tenets of HB 3976, this Inside Line specifically addresses concerns about the TRS Medicare Advantage plan through Humana.

As our members may know, if HB 3976 passes through the legislative process and becomes law, TRS retirees age 65 and over who participate in a TRS-Care insurance plan will be transitioned to the TRS Medicare Advantage plan. This plan will be the only option available. This plan would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

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HB 3976 Passes Out Of Texas House

House Bill 3976 passed out of the Texas House in a 143-0 vote this afternoon (May 3). The bill relates to making dramatic changes to TRS-Care, including providing $633 million towards continuing the state-run retiree health insurance program.

Without HB 3976’s passage, TRS-Care would likely have gone into free-fall. The program was predicted to collapse within two years.

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Texas House Scheduled to Vote on HB 3976

As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program currently faces a $1 billion budget shortfall. If nothing is done this session to address it, retirees will carry the full burden of the shortfall. This means staggering premium increases, benefit cuts, or a combination of both.

Without some action this session, retired school employees could see the dissolution of the plan even as soon as the next year or two!

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TRS Board Elections Underway, Legislature Budget Conferees Named, and More!

While activity continues at the Texas Legislation to address the TRS-Care shortfall, this edition of the Inside Line will focus on some other key issues and actions that Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) members should know about.

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Texas House Appropriations Committee Discusses Funding Plan For TRS-Care

The Texas House Appropriations Committee met Monday, April 17 to discuss House Bill 3976, the TRS-Care bill filed by Chairman Trent Ashby. HB 3976 proposes to make significant plan design changes to TRS-Care, and increases state and school district funding to the retiree health care program.
 
The bill was voted out of committee yesterday. It will soon head to the Texas House floor for a vote. As progress is made on addressing the huge financial issues burdening TRS-Care, it is vital that our members read and share this information with fellow retirees and any active educators they know!

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Texas House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility Discuss Resolution to Repeal GPO, WEP

Today, the Texas House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility met to discuss several bills, including HCR 101, a resolution that would urge Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of the Social Security Act.

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know about these two unfair federal provisions, and that TRTA has been fighting for repeal or modification of them for more than three decades.

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TRS-Care: What's Next

Thank you for your tireless advocacy efforts in protecting your benefits provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).
 
Your calls, emails and visits to legislators are truly making a difference. Legislators have heard your voice, and are formulating plans to try to help our cause.

However, many legislators are preparing to leave their offices for Easter break.

I want to ask all of you to simply take a breath and rest through this weekend.

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Senate Bill 788 Pulled From Consideration

Earlier today Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) removed Senate Bill 788 from the docket to be considered by the Senate. The bill would have made major reforms to TRS-Care, including creating a high deductible health care plan for pre-65 retired educators and switching all Medicare eligible retirees to Medicare Advantage.

Now that the bill has been pulled, alternative legislation needs to be proposed to fund and maintain TRS-Care. If no alternative legislation is proposed and passed, TRS-Care will not be able to continue. According to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), without new funding and plan design changes, TRS-Care will be sent into a "death spiral." If this occurs, retired teachers' health care will go away. TRS-Care’s current budget shortfall is $1 billion. 

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Texas Senate to Vote on SB 788

The Texas Senate is preparing to vote on SB 788. SB 788 proposes to dramatically alter the state-run retiree health insurance program, TRS-Care. SB 788 is on the state’s intent calendar. Bills on the intent calendar can be called to vote at any time.

Authored by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), SB 788 proposes to move all pre-65 retirees into a high deductible health care plan. The deductible is expected to be $4,000. Meanwhile, all Medicare eligible retirees, those ages 65 and older, would be put into Medicare Advantage.

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Texas House Passes Budget Bill, Provides An Additional $500 Million For TRS-Care

The Texas House of Representatives passed its budget this morning. The budget includes the statutory contribution to TRS-Care as well as $500 million coming out of the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund. The statutory state contribution for TRS-Care is 1 percent of active educator payroll.

Representatives debated the bill early into the morning, as it received more than 400 amendments on various issues that did not regard TRS-Care. The bill passed by a vote of 132-16.

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