Earlier this week, CSHB 3976, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance reform bill proposed by Chairman Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Chairman Joan Huffman (R-Houston), passed out of the Senate State Affairs committee. As our members may recall, during the committee meeting on Monday, May 15, Senator Huffman added a committee substitute to the bill calling for additional funding in the amount of $20 million to support some prescription drug coverage for participants under the age of 65.
While the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has not learned any new information at this time about the prescription benefit, we want to report that the bill continues to move forward in the legislative process.
The next step for CSHB 3976 is to be heard on the Senate floor. As of this writing, a date for that has not yet been set. However, the bill can be read and voted upon at any time! You can watch the Senate broadcast here. We ask our members to stay tuned to the Inside Line, as well as Facebook and Twitter, for the latest information about when the bill will be heard.
The state budget, which is now in the hands of budget conferees from both the Senate and the House, is still being developed as well. The plan’s most critical piece to keep TRS-Care from entering a death spiral and closing within two years is to ensure that the most money possible from the budget is dedicated to the health care program.
Both Ashby and Huffman serve on the conference committee. During the Senate State Affairs meeting on May 15, Huffman said that she believed it is “not the majority will of the Senate to use the Rainy Day Fund.” The House budget proposal includes $500 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund for TRS-Care.
While there are many differences between the Senate and House budget that must be worked out before the legislative session ends on Monday, May 29, Huffman stated that she will advocate for the money to ensure that the CSHB 3976 plan structure is used, including adding the free prescription benefit.
Huffman indicated that she will also advocate for enough money to use the proposed House deductible of $3,000 for participants under the age of 65 (the Senate proposal deductible was $4,000), and the proposed House premiums (these are about $50 less expensive than what was proposed in an alternate version of the bill earlier in session). Huffman also supports increasing the school district contribution to TRS-Care from .55 percent to .75 percent and increasing the state contribution from 1 percent to 1.25 percent (percentages based on active teacher payroll).
TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified at Monday’s hearing, saying “please hear our outcry…we need as much money as possible in order for our retirees to be able to afford this program.”
Today, TRTA legislative team members, including Tim Lee, are visiting with State Senators one-on-one to answer their questions about the bill and keep the momentum going. There still may be changes to the bill, as it can be amended on the Senate floor.
While this bill is not a perfect solution, it is best option on the table, and it will prevent TRS-Care’s collapse. Funding is what makes a difference. Over the next several days, TRTA will work with legislators to get the most money possible for TRS-Care. The more money provided by the Legislature, the better the plan will be for retirees!
We encourage our members to reach out to their Senators using our toll-free legislator hotline (1.888.674.3788) asking for their support of the most funding possible for this vital retiree health care program!
Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.
This is TRTA’s most challenging moment. The TRS-Care plan would be significantly worse without your advocacy! We can and will make a difference in affecting positive change for TRS-Care legislation.