20 May

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

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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