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21 Jan
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TRTA “Good Voter Health” Series: Day 2

Day 2: The Importance of the Primary Election and Who Is Running for Office in Your Area

Welcome to the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) series on “Good Voter Health” Day 2! Yesterday, TRTA focused on the importance of being registered to vote and provided valuable, informative links for our members to check their registration status. As a reminder, if you are not sure of your voter registration status, please check the Secretary of State website TODAY: https://team1.sos.state.tx.us/voterws/viw/faces/SearchSelectionVoter.jsp.

Yesterday, TRTA briefly mentioned the importance of the primary elections. Our members need to know that the vast majority of elections in Texas are determined in the primaries. In legislative races, the November general election does not matter that much! Your power as a voter is amplified in primary elections simply because so many other people choose not to vote.

Many of you may consider not voting in a primary because the person most likely to win in the general election is not from the political party you most closely identify with. If you are in this situation but you do not want another influential interest group to take away your power in the November general election, consider voting in the OPPOSITE party primary and choosing a candidate you believe may be friendlier to TRTA issues.

TRTA is not suggesting that you disregard your political ideals or that you vote for someone you do not support; however, the primary process offers a choice of candidates, some of whom may support the TRTA legislative agenda. If you think your vote may be better used in this way, this may be a winning strategy for gaining support for TRTA issues during legislative session.

Some TRTA members may agree with the likely victorious political party in their area. This does not mean, however, that the person winning the primary is the person you want representing you on vital TRTA legislative issues.

It is easy to take for granted that the candidate we would vote for willbe elected, but we must remember that when a candidate faces a challenger in the primary, the vote could go either way! If TRTA does not exercise its resources –the voices of 80,000 retirees—our allies in the Texas Legislature or candidates asking for a chance to serve and protect your TRS benefits may be defeated.

You may know someone who served in the Legislature previously that is no longer serving due to the results of a primary election. Because so few people cast a vote in the primary elections, these races can be determined by just a handful of votes! This means YOUR VOTE IN THE PRIMARY MATTERS.

Every vote cast in a primary election makes a difference!

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office, but has a reputation for working across party lines to establish strong relationships with legislators for the good of TRS and its 300,000+ retirees. But we also know that many groups are still beating the drum to do away with our defined benefit retirement plan. We know that some challengers to elected officials in primary elections are being supported by groups that want to do away with our retirement system.

It is up to us to do our due diligence and ask candidates the tough questions about TRS!

Because your retirement benefits affect your livelihood, you owe it to yourself to find out the answers to the following questions from ALL candidates in your area:

  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable healthcare for TRS retirees?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the TRS pension fund and TRS–Care health insurance program are preserved and improved?

Please feel free to report back to TRTA with any responses you receive, both positive and negative. Send an email to info@trta.orgwith the subject line “Elections.” It is also worthwhile to share the feedback you receive from candidates with other education retirees.

Remember this too: regardless of who you vote for, there will be many new legislators joining the Texas Legislature in 2015. Several Senators and Representatives retired or chose to run for other offices, including the head of the Pensions Committee Representative Bill Callegari. There were also 50 new legislators in 2013. This means that nearly half of the entire legislative body in Texas will have less than two years of experience once the 84th Legislative Session begins!

Who is Running for Office in My Area?

As former educators, let us educate ourselves and all candidates running for office in Texas! Make a commitment to contact the candidates in your area and ask them the questions listed above.

Use the Texas Tribune Elections Bracket feature to determine who is running for office in your area: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/elections/brackets/. The easiest way to find races that affect you is to use the search by zip code feature near the top right-hand side of the page.

Remember, early voting for the primary elections begins February 18, 2014 and continues through February 28, 2014. Primary election day is March 4. We encourage members to vote early if possible, and to begin researching their candidates NOW!

Tomorrow, stay tuned for information about how you can get more involved in the political process by reading our “Good Voter Health” Day 3 article!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

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20 Jan
0

TRTA “Good Voter Health” Series: Day 1

Day 1: Are You Registered to Vote?

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is focused on the election season, and our members should be too! This week, TRTA is providing a series of articles through the Inside Lineabout “Good Voter Health.” What do we mean by good voter health? While there are several key factors in exercising your voter muscle, the first is always that you VOTE!

Many races are decided in the primary elections, but few voters turn out for these spring races. TRTA is here to tell its members that voting in the primary election is more than just important, it is vital! Early voting for the primary elections begins on February 18, 2014 and continues through February 28, 2014. Primary election day is Tuesday, March 4.

Before you can vote in the primary elections, you must be registered to vote! Today, we encourage ALL TRTA MEMBERS to answer this question for themselves: Am I registered to vote?

To confirm your voter registration status, please visit this link provided by the Texas Secretary of State website:  https://team1.sos.state.tx.us/voterws/viw/faces/SearchSelectionVoter.jsp. Have your driver’s license handy when using this website.

What if I need or want to change my name on my voter registration?

You can also use the Secretary of State site to update your name on your voter registration record. TRTA has received phone calls from members expressing concern about having a different name on their driver’s licenses than what appears on their voter registration cards. If this issue concerns you, please address it NOW. Use the following link to make name changes: https://txapps.texas.gov/tolapp/sos/SOSACManager.

I’m not registered! What do I do?

If you are not registered to vote, REGISTER TODAY! Please use the link that follows to register as soon as possible: https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/vrapp/index.asp.

I have a question about my voter registration that hasn’t been answered by the Secretary of State website. Who can I contact?

If you are still experiencing difficulties with your voter registration, please contact your County Election Administrator. A complete list of county election administrators and their contact information can be found at this link: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml.

Where do I vote?

If you are already registered to vote, use today to begin researching voting locations. Remember, if you are voting early, you do not have to vote in your precinct. Consider the time you have available between February 18 through February 28 and determine if you can place your vote on one of those days instead of the busier election day, March 4. Registered and eligible voters may vote at ANY early voting location located in the county of residence.

Check with your Early Voting Clerk at the County Election Administrators office to determine locations within your county where early voting will take place. http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml

Tomorrow, TRTA will focus on the importance of primary elections and researching candidates for political office during Day 2 of our “Good Voter Health” series! Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

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10 Jan
0

Aetna Settlement in Lawsuit Impacts Some TRS Members

Message from Tim Lee, TRTA Executive Director

Correcting Information Originally Provided Regarding Aetna Settlement

TRTA strives to provide the best, clearest, and most accurate information available on all issues pertaining to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) and our members’ interests.

Last week, we learned about a class action lawsuit settlement between Aetna and those who have received payment or compensation for out-of-network coverage as part of their benefits through Aetna (the determined class of people represented by this legal settlement).

Based on the information we received, we developed an update that stated that a member receiving information from Aetna about the lawsuit did NOT have to do anything to be a participant in the class action settlement.

This information is inaccurate. A claimant wanting to participate in the class action settlement MUST complete the forms that are being provided by Aetna as part of this settlement.

A complete description of the action needed on those forms is provided in TRTA’s revised update below. If you have filed away your Aetna form, lost it, or just discarded it, you can download the forms by clicking here (http://nebula.wsimg.com/a7360ba6f4cbbba96355bb1e74f67fac?AccessKeyId=01F1A4624253D6F9587B&disposition=0). You may also choose to contact Aetna UCR Litigation to request an additional copy of the forms (1.800.600.3079).

I deeply regret and apologize for providing inaccurate information about this settlement. As I said, we take our role of providing accurate and timely information very seriously, and we are all disappointed in our service to you when we make mistakes.

We will work diligently to assure our members that mistakes like this are not made in the future.

Sincerely,

Tim Lee
TRTA Executive Director

(Begin TRTA Updated Article on Aetna Settlement)

Aetna Settlement in Lawsuit Impacts Some TRS Members: CORRECTED AND NEW INFORMATION

Last week, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) sent out an Inside Line article regarding a lawsuit being settled by Aetna. As a member of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) who participates in the TRS-Care medical insurance program, you may have received or may soon receive a notice from Aetna in the mail regarding this lawsuit.

A settlement under which Aetna agreed to pay up to $120 million has been given preliminary approval by the New Jersey District Court. The settlement relates to class action litigation over payments for out-of-network benefits. The litigation for this case began in 2007 over payments for out-of-network benefits. This litigation is known as MDL 2020 (originally filed under the plaintiff name Cooper).

Although our article was reviewed by parties with first-hand knowledge of the Aetna settlement prior to being published, additional information has established that some of the instructions provided by TRTA regarding how to receive payment from this settlement are INCORRECT.

If you received the lawsuit notice from Aetna, PLEASE READ THE CORRECTED INFORMATION PROVIDED BELOW. We have also included some NEW INFORMATION not previously provided.

Who is receiving this notice?

All Aetna policy holders whose benefit structure includes in-network and out-of-network benefits may receive this notice. The settlement is not limited to TRS-Care or Texas Aetna coverage. These notices are going out to Aetna policy holders nationally.

You may receive this notice if you used out-of-network providers and/or benefit options through TRS-Care at any time since 2001 and through 2013.

Anyone who receives the notice can partake in the Class Action Suit and can be reimbursed up to$40 per year (this amount may be less depending upon the number of people who accept the settlement proposal).

If I receive the notice, what should I do? (CORRECTED INFORMATION INCLUDED IN THIS SECTION)

In order to receive these reimbursements, you should NOT opt out. If you are affected by this settlement, you are automatically eligible to receive up to $40 per year in which you had eligible claims. In order to receive your settlement, you must select Option 1 on the Subscriber Claim Form. This should be on page 7 of the document you received. You should also complete pages 8 and 10 of the document. Return these forms to: Aetna UCR Litigation – Subscriber, c/o Berdon Claims Administration LLC, P.O. Box 15000, Jericho, NY 11853-0001.

The information you return to Berdon Claims must be postmarked no later than March 28, 2014.

Previously, TRTA instructions said you had to do nothing to receive this settlement. The CORRECT information is that you must select Option 1 and return that page (7) along with pages 8 and 10 to Aetna UCR Litigation with a postmark no later than March 28, 2014.

What if I need to submit a claim for extensive out-of-pocket expenses? (NEW INFORMATION INCLUDED IN THIS SECTION)

If you feel that your claims warrant more attention due to extensive out-of-pocket expenses, you would need to submit a claim and show proof of your balance billing activity. This would mean you would be opting out of the settlement and pursuing a personal claim. To do this, you must select Option 2 on the Subscriber Claim Form. Please note that you cannot select both options 1 and 2. Those completing Option 2 also need to complete and return pages 8, 9, and 10.

Those who qualify will receive between 3-5% of the allowed amount. As an example, if a plan paid out of network at 80% of regular and customary, and allowed $100 of a $150 charge, the member could get 3-5% of the $100 that was allowed. If it was a TRS member that was held to the proprietary fee schedule and may have been allowed $75, they would get 3-5% of the $75.

If you feel that you should submit a claim because of extensive out-of-pocket expenses, you should contact the Aetna class counsel. You can reach them by calling 1.800.600.3079 or Aetna UCR Litigation, c/o Berdon Claims Administration LLC, P.O. Box 15000, Jericho, NY 11853-0001.

The number provided above is not for the insurance company, but for the class counsel settlement team. The insurance company itself legally cannot assist in completing claims, but can provide assistance by printing Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) and claim information.

Members who submit claims must elect to recover from either the general fund ($40/year) or the fund requiring documentation. Members CANNOT recover from both funds.

I’m not sure if I had extensive out-of-pocket expenses. How do I learn more? (NEW INFORMATION)

Included in the document sent out by Aetna UCR Litigation on page 15 is a Claims Information Request Authorization Form. You may complete this form and return it to Aetna UCR Litigation to receive a copy of the claims information made available to the Settlement Administrator by Aetna in connection with this lawsuit.

You may also contact Aetna to receive EOBs and other claim information by calling 1-800-US-AETNA (1-800-872-3862).

Does this settlement have anything to do with the American Affordable Care Act?

This settlement is not related in any way to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or sometimes referred to as Obamacare). This settlement is part of a Class Action Lawsuit brought by various medical providers from the state of New Jersey, but does have national implications for all Aetna policy holders that have in-network and out-of-network benefits as part of their plans.

When can I expect to receive my payment if I qualify for this settlement?

Aetna has not yet provided a timeframe for when payments will be distributed. Because this is a proportional or pro-rata distribution, all claims will be paid at the same time. Since Aetna insures millions of people, they expect to receive a very large number of claims. This process may take a substantial amount of time. All claims are first reviewed and evaluated and then claimants with deficient claims are given a chance to cure them. After the Court approves the distribution, payments will be made to eligible claimants based on the Settlement administrator’s findings. Aetna asks for your patience at this time.

Will TRS-Care experience any changes in benefits or costs this plan year due to this settlement?

No.

Our Sincerest Apologies

TRTA knows that receiving information about class action lawsuit settlements can be both unsettling and confusing, and the article sent out last week contributed to this confusion. We apologize for providing you with the incorrect information and hope that the corrected information provided today is helpful to you.

IMPORTANT: If you read last week’s update and discarded the documents you received from Aetna UCR Litigation, please contact them as soon as possible to request an additional copy. You may reach them at 1.800.600.3079.

Finally, if you have any additional general questions about this settlement, please email us at info@trta.org and we will do our best to answer. Thank you for being a TRTA member. We appreciate your support! If you are not a member, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650 and we will be happy to assist you with any membership questions you may have.

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