The TRS-Care Issue Explained
TRS-Care is the health insurance program more than 260,000 retired Texas educators rely upon. The program is provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), the state agency responsible for running teachers' retirement pensions.
TRS-Care currently faces a $1.1 billion budget shortfall. If nothing is done, retirees' premiums will skyrocket, and the program could even close within two years, leaving many without a quality health care option. The Texas Legislature must make changes to TRS-Care funding for the program to remain solvent.
Last year, the Legislature held an Interim Study Committee, which studied the issue of rising TRS-Care health insurance costs. The committee put forth two proposals, both of which required retirees to pay the entire shortfall. Read TRTA's full review of the study here.
Texas retired educators live on a fixed income. The average retiree receives $2,035 per month from the TRS pension. Ninety-five percent of Texas retirees did not pay into Social Security during their careers, and those who do receive Social Security are often harmed by federal provisions called the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.
Retirees can not afford to pay for the entire TRS-Care shortfall.
TRS-Care was created in 1986. It was originally designed to be a placeholder health insurance program for retirees. However, as the program grew and more retirees paid into it, TRS-Care became a reliable, quality health care program for teachers and other Texas educators.
However, with rising health care costs, TRS-Care expenses have outgrown its income. TRS-Care is primarily funded by retired teachers, but it also receives funding from active educators, school districts and the state. The state's contribution level is equal to 1 percent of active educator payroll. Health care costs are rising at a disproportionate rate as compared to teacher salaries. Thus, TRS-Care will continue to see budget shortfalls under its current system. The TRS-Care funding system must be re-worked to satisfy its modern needs.
1. Call your legislators! You can reach your State Senator and your State Representative in Austin by using this toll–free Legislator Hotline: 1.888.674.3788. Not sure what to say? Check out our TRTA Sample Phone Script.
2. If you once taught a current Texas state legislator during your career, please contact the TRTA office in Austin at 1.800.880.1650, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We could use your help this session!
3. Email your legislators! If you already know your legislators’ names, emailing them is easy! Texas Senators: email@example.com. Texas Representatives: firstname.lastname@example.org. Not sure who your state legislators are? Just visit the Who Represents Me website and enter your address. Look for your State Senator and State Representative.
4. Sign up for TRTA’s free e–newsletter service The Inside Line so that you can receive up–to–the–minute updates about what’s happening at the Capitol! You can subscribe here.
5. Check your email regularly, and when you receive The Inside Line from Tim Lee that includes an Action Alert, click on the alert link to send your legislators an urgent message! TRTA will often use these special alerts when action is needed right away, such as when a bill affecting your retirement benefits is up for a vote.
6. Like TRTA on Facebook and share our posts about TRS–Care.
7. Find and friend your legislators on Facebook! Just type their title, first and last name into the Search tool on Facebook to find them. Be sure to click “Like” once you find their page. Not all legislators have Facebook pages, but many do. Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with legislators and share urgent messages from TRTA with them.
8. Create a post on your Facebook wall, sharing a simple message such as “My name is (first name) (last name). I am a retired teacher, and I need the Texas Legislature’s help! I taught in Texas public schools for (number) years, and I use TRS–Care for my health insurance. Without TRS–Care, I would not be able to afford (example: medical treatments for my diabetes).” Insert your own personal story about what TRS–Care means to you and how important it is to your health and retirement security!
9. Write an editorial and send it to your local newspaper! You can find a sample editorial here.
10. Join us at Day at the Capitol! TRTA will host a full day of legislative grassroots advocacy on Wednesday, March 29! Our “Day at the Capitol” event is open to all Convention attendees as well as any member who wishes to travel to Austin for this purpose only. Please note, an RSVP is required for the Day at the Capitol event even if you do not plan to attend the Convention. Your RSVP ensures that enough advocacy materials and refreshments are available for all attendees. RSVP via Facebook here!