Blog

21 May 2011
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HRA Amendment Not Added

Update on HRA Amendment and SB 1811

Legislature Does NOT Add HRA to TRS-Care

Thousands of TRTA members emailed and called their legislators asking them to vote “NO!” on an amendment adding Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) to the TRS-Care program. With much gratitude to the TRTA membership and the Texas Legisalture, this amendment was NOT added to the final bill.

TRTA also asked members to email and call House members about the Gooden/Villarreal Amendment making any reduction to TRS or TRS-Care a temporary change. House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts amended SB 1811 to ensure changes to TRS and TRS-Care are temporary reductions. Representative Villarreal spoke-up for TRTA members and for all TRS retirees by asking Representative Pitts to speak more about this change and clarify the position being taken through the amendment. Representative Pitts did assure Representative Villarreal and the Texas House that changes to TRS are considered temporary to the upcoming biennium, and he also spoke about a potential agreement in the budget conference committee that will reduce TRS and TRS-Care contributions for only one year in the coming biennium (this sounds like the Senate proposal that has become known as the “Duncan Plan”). TRTA will learn more about this in the coming days. As a final note, your communication on this vital amendment helped propel it to top of the list for consideration. Out of about 90 considered amendments and hours and hours of debate, the amendment on TRS funding was number 2 on the list. Thank you for your help to make the legislature aware of these vital issues.

TRTA will provide additional updates this weekend as issues advance through the legislative process.

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20 May 2011
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An Opportunity to Promote the TRTA Agenda : Protect TRS Retirees!

Delayed Again

Thousands of TRTA members are emailing Texas House members urging them to vote “NO!” on the amendment to create HRA accounts for TRS-Care participants. Like many other bills, the bill with this amendment (SB 1811) has been delayed. The most recent news is that the Texas House will hear the bill tonight (Friday, May 20, 2011).

While ongoing delays are frustrating, the good news is TRTA members have additional time to email (Click here to send your email now) or call (1.888.674.3788)their Texas Representatives and ask them to vote “NO!” on the amendment creating HRA accounts for TRS-Care participants.

Thank you for your hard work! Your message is being heard.

Below is an update on several other TRTA issues this session. We are continuing to work for you and we appreciate your involvement.

·         TRS-Care Premiums—TRTA has worked all session to prevent TRS-Care premiums from increasing as much as 80 percent this coming biennium. While the Texas House offered a “cuts only” approach in their budget proposal on TRS-Care, the Senate worked with the “Duncan Plan” to restore vital funding and keep premiums from increasing. TRTA needs to see SB 1671 pass out of the House and we need to see the House agree to higher funding levels for TRS-Care.

·         TRS Pension Funding—Similar to TRS-Care funding, the Texas House budget proposal represented a “cuts only” approach to TRS pension trust fund. The Senate embraced the “Duncan Plan” that moved to restore over $100 million in additional funding to the pension fund.

·         SB 1671—This bill is now in the House and should be set on the calendar soon. SB 1671 is authored by Senator Duncan and contains the language necessary to increase funding for TRs and TRS-Care that the House originally reduced. The bill is being carried in the House by long-time supporter Representative Vicki Truitt.

·         Texas Budget—Many articles of the budget are already finalized and agreed to…except for Article III which is the Education section of the budget. It is also the section that contains funding for TRS. We are waiting to learn more about the final agreements on funding for TRS and TRS-Care.

·         HB 2120—Legislation authored by Representative Doug Miller to create an “open” member seat on the TRS Board. The bill is set for Senate local and uncontested calendar next week.

·         HB 3542—Legislation authored by Representative Larry Gonzales that would provide retirees with a supplemental payment using investment earnings and the fulfillment other conditions designed to protect the TRS fund. The House approved the measure on a vote of 136-1, but the bill has not been set for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

·         HB 3747—Legislation providing for the direct election of member trustees on the TRS Board. The bill passed out of the House, but is has not been posted for hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

TRTA will continue to update as we move into the last week of legislative session.

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18 May 2011
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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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