18 May

TRTA Action Alert: Last Minute Attempt to Change TRS – Care

Chisum Amendment Creates Defined Contribution Plan…This Time for your Health Insurance!

Click Here to Send an Email Asking your Texas Representative to Vote “NO!” on this Amendment–Read Complete Update Below

The Texas House reportedly will consider another “fiscal matters” bill tomorrow. The bill, SB 1811, already has hundreds of amendments that will be considered along with it. An amendment filed by Representative Warren Chisum creates a Health Reimbursement Arrangement or HRA. These plans are tantamount to a defined contribution health care plan for TRS-Care participants who now use Medicare.

What this means for you as a TRS-Care participant is the TRS Board may be forced to create a health reimbursement account that you will use to buy a Medicare supplement (or similar plan). The funds available to you through the HRA plan would then be used to pay premiums. Many times, however, the funds available through an HRA are not enough to cover the costs of such plans. These plans also offer considerably lower benefits to retirees than the current TRS-Care plan.

The amendment provides for the hiring of a third-party administrator to manage the HRA accounts. Privatized, third-party administrators do not work for free, and TRTA is concerned this would create an undue financial burden on TRS retirees through higher administrative costs.

TRTA does NOT support this amendment for many reasons, including:

·         The introduction of HRA accounts shifts higher health costs onto retirees;

·         Medicare supplements and similar plans generally offer much lower benefits than the current TRS-Care plan;

·         Unlike the current TRS-Care program, most Medicare supplements and similar plans do not include prescription drug coverage;

·         Under this amendment, a Medicare-eligible retiree may have to leave their current plan with TRS-Care to buy a Medicare supplement plan and a prescription drug plan;

·         This is being done through a much less efficient system;

·         TRS-Care participants currently pay premiums for their health care plan;

·         TRS-Care provides a strong benefit plan with prescription drug coverage that is coordinated with Medicare, and offers a low cost option for the participant and the plan sponsor;

·         TRS-Care is managed by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas in a very cost-efficient manner; and

·         TRS-Care covers more than 200,000 TRS retirees and dependents.

TRTA does NOT support the Chisum amendment as it will increase costs for retirees and lower their benefit coverage, and it is less efficient and far more confusing than what is currently available through TRS.

The Chisum amendment is a fundamental change in how the state would provide a health insurance option for current and future TRS-Care participants. A change of this magnitude MUST be addressed in a public hearing where the issue can be debated and the public

TRTA members need to alert their Texas Representative and tell them to vote “NO!” on the Chisum amendment creating HRA accounts for TRS retirees!

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of TRTA!


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17 May

TRTA Action Alert – Bills Now In Senate and Need Our Support

TRTA Bills Head to the Senate

Action Alert: Urge Your Senator to Bring the Bills for a Vote

Three bills that TRTA pushed in the House have now been sent to the Senate for action before they can be sent to the Governor.

Please Click Here to Email your Senator! We Need Their Support!

HB 2120 by Representative Doug Miller creates an “open seat” on the TRS Board allowing any TRS member to run for this position (currently the position is limited to a higher education representative).
HB 3542 by Representative Larry Gonzales authorizes TRS to make a supplemental payment to retirees if the fund’s investment earnings exceed 8 percent and if the fund is a minimum 80 percent funded before and after the payment is made.
HB 3747 by Representative Ruth Jones McClendon allows for the direct election of TRS member representatives on the TRS Board of Trustees.

TRTA supports all of these bills and we need your help to get them moving in the Senate. Time is short; please email your Senator today by clicking the link below.

Please Click Here to Email your Senator (same link as the one above)!

We know you have already given so much of your time and attention to these email alerts. Did you know that your voice is added to the tens of thousands of TRTA members who are actively sending these emails with you? Very few organizations generate the response to legislative action alerts like TRTA members generate. Thanks to you and your fellow TRTA members, our voice is loud, consistent, strong, and is being heard! Thank you for your perseverance. We are down to the final stretch of this regular legislative session. Your help is crucial in this final push.
If you are not a member but want to join TRTA as we work to improve benefits for current retirees and protect the pension benefits of future TRS members, please contact the TRTA office at 1.800.880.1650 and we will answer any membership questions you may have.

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12 May

TRTA Update May 12, 2011 “A Good Day for TRTA”

TRTA Members Make a Difference
TRS Language Adopted in Senate, HB 3542 and HB 2120 Move to Third Reading
TRTA members have done a great job educating and encouraging their legislators to vote on these critical bills. The actions taken earlier this week and today have helped advance the TRTA agenda to protect retiree benefits and develop opportunities to help retired public education employees.
The Texas Senate passed SB 1671 earlier this week. This measure included a number of TRS related provisions, but it also included what many have come to know as the “Duncan Plan” to protect TRS and TRS-Care funding in the coming biennium. Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) developed a plan, with the help and support of many other state senators, that restores funding to the pension trust fund and the TRS-Care health insurance program. This plan adjusts the state funding levels to a higher level than what is currently proposed by the Texas House. This legislation, along with the more favorable language in the Senate version of the state budget, will restore over $235 million in TRS funding. The most significant component of the “Duncan Plan” for TRS retirees is that it is designed to help prevent TRS-Care premiums from increasing in the coming biennium. This legislation now moves to the Texas House and the budget is presently being negotiated.
TRTA thanks Senator Robert Duncan and the members of the Texas Senate for working on a plan to help restore funding to the TRS and control TRS-Care premium costs. If you want to thank your senator and ask for their support for Chairman Duncan in these ongoing negotiations, please click here.
House Update
Earlier this evening (May 12, 2011) the House considered HB 3542 and HB 2120 for passage from “second reading” to “third reading.” Today is the last day for bills to be considered on second reading and moved through the process to third reading. TRTA members have sent thousands of emails and made thousands of phone calls asking the House to consider these bills before time expired leaving the bills ineligible.
Those emails and phone calls have paid off! The House voted favorably on both HB 3542 and HB 2120. TRTA wants to thank Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) and Representative Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) for their hard work and leadership on these bills. A summary of each bill is provided by clicking here.
TRTA members can contact their representative and thank him/her, as it was with the FULL House support that BOTH bills were adopted and moved to third reading!! Hopefully, the bills will see final House action in the next day or two and will then move to the Senate for consideration.
Please click here if you want to send an email thanking your Representative for his/her support and to ask him/her to finish the job and send HB 3542 and HB 2120 to the Senate for consideration.
House Fiscal Matters Bills
Many TRTA members have also been working to gain support for language to change a bad provision in the House fiscal matters bills that would have permanently reduced TRS-Care funding. TRTA learned earlier this week that House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts was in full support of changing the “permanent” provision to a “temporary” provision. TRTA had also been working with Representative Lance Gooden and Representative Mike Villarreal on this important change. While it was agreed that this provision would be changed so that any change would be temporary, the House fiscal matters bills have been so delayed that the use of these bills may not be possible. The good news is that the Senate has adopted their fiscal matters bills, and in them is the “Duncan Plan” protecting TRS and TRS-Care.
The budget negotiations are moving forward and we will keep you posted on all these major events in the final weeks of session.
Please know that your help is making a big difference. If you are not a member but would like to join TRTA in our efforts to protect your pension benefits, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650 and we will be happy to help answer any questions you may have about joining TRTA.

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