16 Jun

Health Care Crisis Results in TRS-Care Benefit Reductions; New Medicare Advantage Provider Approved

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees adopted numerous plan design changes to the TRS-Care program. These changes include:

  • increased deductibles.
  • increased out-of-pocket maximum costs.
  • new convenience fees for local pharmacy prescription drug fills.
  • new rules on Medicare D.

The plan changes are projected to cost TRS-Care participants more than $43 million.

Among the changes, TRS is introducing Humana as a new Medicare Advantage provider. Humana will now work alongside Aetna, the long-time administrator of the TRS-Care traditional plan. Express Scripts will continue to manage pharmacy benefits. Humana contract negotiations are pending with TRS and will go into effect January 1, 2017. Humana brings a strong background in the Medicare Advantage market, and their broad base of providers may help TRS-Care improve and/or expand Medicare Advantage coverage.

A update on all these plan design changes and how they may impact your TRS-Care benefits and your pocketbook will be provided tomorrow.

The fight for more funding for the TRS-Care plan is already underway. TRS projects the pending shortfall to range between $1.5 and $2 billion next session!

The Texas Legislature must take a comprehensive look at how they fund this vital retiree health care program. Today’s decisions may be viewed as a modest reduction in benefits for retirees; however, if the Legislature does not act to deal with this health care crisis, TRS-Care plan design and premium increases may make the plan unrecognizable compared to how we know it today.

TRTA needs EVERY retired school employee to join in our effort to protect TRS-Care. We need you to join TRTA. We need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

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10 Jun

“A Helping Hand” Available for Retirees in Need

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF), the charitable arm of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), has been busy this spring delivering grants to classroom teachers all across Texas and scholarships to future educators.

As our members know, TRTF also supports a grant program that aids public education retirees experiencing critical emergencies. “A Helping Hand” was introduced in 2010 and has provided help to retirees for a variety of needs, including home and car repairs, food, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental care, air conditioners, heaters and much more. To date, more than $84,000 has been given to 88 retirees through the program.

With recent storms and flooding in Texas causing damage to homes and other property and displacing families, we would like to remind our members that help is available.

If you or a fellow retiree or active educator you know are experiencing financial struggles due to the recent storms, please contact TRTF at 1.800.880.1650 or to request an application for assistance. All applications are kept confidential.

Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund Established to Support “A Helping Hand”

During the 63rd Annual TRTA Convention, TRTF introduced the new Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund. The fund is being created to establish long-term earnings that will be dedicated to “A Helping Hand.”

Members donated more than $10,000 during the Foundation’s annual luncheon to the endowment fund. The goal of the endowment fund is to reach $2 million in donations by December 31, 2019. TRTF is asking all members of TRTA to consider making a one-time donation of $30 to help the fund reach its $2,000,000 goal. Donations may be made online here or via snail mail by sending a check to TRTF, Attn: Endowment Fund, 313 E. 12th Street Suite 220, Austin, TX 78701.

Donations made to the endowment fund will create a long-term account from which interest can be earned. All earnings from the fund will benefit “A Helping Hand.”

The fund is being created during the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Consumer Price Index Catch-Up Plan (CPI Catch-Up) that was passed by the Texas Legislature in the 1990s.

The CPI Catch-Up was a significant legislative change that enabled Texas public education retirees to receive permanent benefit increases to make up for losses due to the high inflation rates of the 1980s. The CPI Catch-Up was passed in 1993, and phased in over several years through 2001.

Although the CPI Catch-up strategy was the collective brainchild of the TRTA leadership at that time, former TRTA Executive Director Mike Lehr is recognized as the driving force behind the implementation of this strategy. This initiative was a huge success. By 1999, retiree benefits had been fully adjusted for inflation and were ahead of inflation by 10 percent. By 2001, adjusted benefits exceeded inflation by 15 percent!

The total value to all current and future retirees for the CPI Catch-Up initiative equaled $14.8 billion. All current and future retirees on average are receiving an additional $300 per month as a result of Mike Lehr and TRTA’s work.

Established at the behest of longtime trustee and TRTA Past President Tom Pritchard, “A Helping Hand” provides assistance to retirees who are struggling with unexpected financial emergencies.

Today, TRS retirees live on an average fixed income of $1900, and approximately 80 percent do not receive federal Social Security benefits. The likelihood for significant benefit increases for retirees going forward is very low. Over time, the number of retirees needing assistance will increase as the purchasing power of fixed annuities is eaten away by inflation.

Annual donations from TRTA members to the current “A Helping Hand” program to assist fellow retirees in need have been generous, but will not be enough to fund the increase in the number of retirees needing assistance.

To ensure that adequate resources are available in the future to fund “A Helping Hand,” TRTF is creating the “Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund,” with earnings from the endowment being dedicated to the program.

We appreciate your consideration in making a one-time $30 donation to the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund to establish a permanent funding source for the Foundation’s most vital program.

Thank You

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 or sign up online.

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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03 Jun

Bill to Replace Windfall Elimination Provision Reaches 100 Cosponsors

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) have been contacting their congressmen and sharing information about HR 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, with their friends and family living in Texas and other states since the bill was introduced by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands).

TRTA is pleased to report that the bill now has 100 cosponsors, with 27 cosponsors from Texas!

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is an unfair federal provision preventing retirees from receiving the Social Security benefits they are owed. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of Social Security benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security.

Ninety-five percent of Texas public school employees do not pay into Social Security through their work with Texas schools. However, many have other jobs before, during, or after their employment in education in which they do pay into the federal program.

Congressman Kevin Brady’s bill would replace the current WEP formula with a new, fairer one. TRTA representatives visited Washington, D.C. in March 2015, and advocated for HR 711’s support from all Texas congressional members. TRTA also provided information about WEP’s negative impact on Texas public education retirees.

On average, the WEP reduces TRTA members’ monthly incomes by $400. HR 711 proposes to reduce the WEP’s impact on current retirees by 33 percent or more! Future retirees will see the WEP’s impact reduced as much as 50 percent. Any increase in our Texas education retirees’ fixed incomes greatly bolsters their retirement security.

HR 711, if passed, would guarantee public servants receive the benefits they earned while they paid into Social Security. HR 711 would also increase lifetime Social Security benefits by $20,000 to $32,400.

How You Can Help

TRTA is grateful that so many congressmen across the nation have signed on to support HR 711; but we still need more cosponsors to keep the bill active and push it towards passage.

You may see the list below of all Texas Congressmen, their co-sponsor status, and how you can contact them to ask them to support HR 711 by clicking here.

If your local Congressman hasn’t co-sponsored HR 711, give them a call, write them a letter, or visit their website to send them an email directly. Let your voice be heard and help us repeal the WEP!

Please also encourage your friends and family outside of Texas to contact their Congressmen and ask them to support HR 711. In the latest edition of The VOICE, we sent out a call to action on this very issue. Now is the time to make a change!

Thank You

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.

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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