Blog

09 Feb
0

House Committee Assignments Announced

House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released his committee assignments for the 85th Texas Legislature today. In particular, Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) members should be aware of the House Appropriations Committee and the Pensions Committee.

The House budget bill will include funding for the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. The Appropriations Committee will be responsible for crafting and passing the House budget bill. Specifically, the Subcommittee on Article III of Appropriations works on education issues. TRTA will keep members informed about any upcoming hearings about their retirement benefits.

The Appropriations Committee members are: John Zerwas – Chair (R-Richmond), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto), Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), Donna Howard (D-Austin), Sergio Muñoz (D-Palmview), J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville), Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), Armando Walle (D-Houston), Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Giovanni Capriglione (R-South Lake), Scott Cosper (R-Killeen), Jay Dean(R-Longview), Mary Gonzålez (D-El Paso), Linda Koop (R-Dallas), Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land), Mary Ann Perez (D-Houston), Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), John Raney (R-College Station), Kevin Roberts (R-Houston), Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), Toni Rose (D-Dallas), Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), and Gene Wu (D-Houston).

TRTA continues to work with the Legislature on finding ways to improve benefits for TRS retirees, including pension increases. If a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or supplemental payment is passed this session, it will be considered by the House Pensions Committee.

The Pensions Committee members are: Dan Flynn – Chair (R-Canton), Roberto Alonzo(D-Dallas), Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant), Dan Huberty (R-Houston), and Dennis Paul (R-Houston).

You can view the full list of the committee assignments here. Stay tuned to the Inside Line throughout legislative session to learn more about upcoming hearings, opportunities to share public testimony, and action alerts.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are ardently fighting for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.

Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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03 Feb
0

Senate Finance Work Group on Health Care Costs Meets

Today, Friday, February 3, the special work group appointed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jane Nelson to consider cost containment measures for state-vested health care plans met and heard testimony. Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) Executive Director Tim Lee was invited to testify.

The following Senators serve on the work group: Charles Schwertner, Chair; Joan HuffmanLois KolkhorstRobert NicholsCarlos UrestiKirk Watson; and John Whitmire.

The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) made presentations.

If you have Microsoft Powerpoint, you can download the slides Tim Lee used in his presentation here.

TRTA is encouraged by the work being done in the Legislature to make healthcare costs a priority. Unfortunately, the TRS-Care program is not immune to ever skyrocketing costs for healthcare. TRTA believes it is important for all of us to work with the legislature on plan design, cost-containment and cost reduction. TRS-Care has a $1 billion shortfall. We need to help the Legislature make good decisions on how this shortfall may be eliminated, and do so in such a way that retirees have access to affordable healthcare options.

TRTA will have a full breakdown of the meeting in an upcoming Inside Line.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We will continue to follow the progress on TRS-Care. TRTA will provide you many more opportunities to get involved as we protect your hard earned retirement benefits!

If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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01 Feb
0

Senate Finance Committee Continues Discussions on Funding Health Care

Today, February 1, 2017, the Senate Finance Committee met to continue its discussion about funding vital programs in the state budget, including the TRS-Care retiree health insurance plan.

The committee’s discussion picks up from a meeting held on January 24. You can read TRTA’s comprehensive overview of last week’s meeting by clicking here.

Funding for TRS-Care, the health insurance plan that covers more than 250,000 lives, is a major concern for public education retirees this session, as the program faces a $1.1 billion shortfall. During the previous legislative session in 2015, a similar shortfall of $768 million was covered by the state. It was understood at the time that the infusion of funds was a temporary fix for a program that needed long-term solutions.

As part of last week’s Senate Finance discussions, a work group of Senators on the committee was formed to review all state-vested health care plans. The following Senators will serve on the work group: Charles Schwertner, Chair; Joan HuffmanLois KolkhorstRobert NicholsCarlos UrestiKirk Watson; and John Whitmire. The work group will host its first public hearing this Friday, February 3.

While TRTA is ready to discuss options such as health care containment with the Senate work group to help find increased savings for TRS-Care, these efforts alone will not solve the problem. More appropriations are necessary to resolve the current shortfall, and keep the program sustainable for the future.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) asked members to complete a short survey last week in preparation for today’s Senate Finance meeting. Several thousand TRTA members responded, answering general questions about how a large increase in premiums would affect them financially and what changes in the program would be most acceptable to them.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jane Nelson said during the meeting that the state would need an additional $5.6 billion this session just to maintain ALL of its health care programs as they are, not accounting for the continuing rise in health care costs going forward. The work group will be responsible for trying to find ways to contain these costs, not just for TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare, but also programs run by the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) and others.

Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Executive Director Brian Guthrie spoke briefly as part of a panel of agency leaders, stating that TRS “relies heavily on third party administrators to find cost-saving opportunities.” He also said that most participants in TRS-Care live in rural areas of the state, making access to health care an issue for some.

Senator Charles Schwertner asked the agency heads if there had been a dramatic reconsideration of benefit and plan design at the board level, expressing concern that third party administrators were controlling too much of the decision-making process in those areas. He also pointed out that cost growth for some state health care plans is at 8.5 percent, higher than some federal plans.

As Chairman Nelson redirected the meeting, she stated that “ultimately, our goal is to improve quality and reduce costs,” reminding everyone in attendance that delving into issues such as the one being discussed by Senator Schwertner would be vital during the special health care work group meetings.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee has been invited to testify at Friday’s health care work group meeting. The meeting will begin at either 9:00 a.m. or upon adjournment of the Senate Finance Committee meeting in room E1.036 of the Texas Capitol extension building. Public testimony will not be allowed during this meeting. However, TRTA will be sure to provide a thorough update once the meeting adjourns. A live webcast of the meeting should be available from this website once it convenes this Friday.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Read More