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26 Jul
0

Senate Passes SB 19, House Appropriations Discusses TRS Bills

  • TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee appeared on Capital Tonight on the Austin Spectrum News channel on Monday evening, July 24. Watch the video here(Lee appears about 10 minutes into the video)
  • Full Senate passes Senate Bill 19, sends bill to the House
  • House Appropriations discusses various TRS Bills

Senate Votes on SB 19, Sends Bill to the House

Last night (July 25), the full Senate voted on Senate Bill 19, the bill filed for the first called special session of the 85th Legislature by Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound) and co-authored by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston).

SB 19 lays out the Texas Senate’s plan for providing additional revenue to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. The Senate’s plan to address TRS-Care funding includes as much as $212 million in additional funding. Read TRTA’s comprehensive overview of SB 19 by clicking here.

Senators Kirk Watson (D – Austin) and Sylvia Garcia (D – Houston) both offered amendments to the bill that were defeated. Watson’s amendment called for an increase in the state contribution to TRS-Care, which sits at 1.25 percent of active teacher payroll as of the passing of HB 3976 during the 85th Regular Legislative Session. Garcia’s amendment proposed using state border security money that was freed up by federal funding to pay for the bill’s provisions.

The bill passed out of the Senate with a vote of 28 to 3. Senators Sylvia Garcia, José Rodríguez (D – El Paso) and Van Taylor (R – Plano) voted against the bill. Last night’s Senate vote means the bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

House Appropriations Begins Discussions on TRS Bills

The House Appropriations Committee met Tuesday, July 25 to discuss several bills impacting retirement benefits through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) as the first called special session of the 85th Legislature continues. To view the archived meeting online, TRTA recommends forwarding the video to 4 hours and 56 minutes.

The following TRS bills were discussed:

HB 20       Author: Ashby | Darby | VanDeaver | Zerwas | Howard

Relating to an appropriation of money from the economic stabilization fund to decrease health insurance premiums and deductibles for certain health benefit plans administered by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

HB 76       Author: Darby | Guillen | Oliveira

Relating to a supplemental appropriation for Teacher Retirement System of Texas retiree health.

HB 80       Author: Darby | Guillen | Oliveira

Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

HB 151    Author: Gooden | Guillen | Thompson, Senfronia | Darby | Cook

Relating to the administration of certain group benefits by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas; making an appropriation.

Representative Drew Darby (R – San Angelo) laid out HB 80, a bill that would provide a one-time cost-of-living increase (COLA) to annuitants who retired after August 31, 2004 and on or before August 31, 2015. The COLA would benefit retirees who did not receive the raise provided to more than 200,000 annuitants in 2013.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in support of the bill. TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie said that paying for the COLA itself would cost $1.36 billion, plus there would be an additional cost of $1.9 billion to make the pension fund actuarially sound so that the COLA could be made. Both Lee and Guthrie agreed that such an increase would be helpful to retirees experiencing increases in their health care costs.

“I throw this bill out to point out the difficulty that our retired teachers are having in not having a COLA increase in a number of years,” Darby said in a closing statement. “These are issues that we need to keep before us and try to find solutions for.”

Darby also laid out HB 76, which would provide a supplemental appropriation to TRS-Care and would help retirees struggling with health care costs.

Representative Lance Gooden (R – Terrell) laid out HB 151, which would provide a one-time distribution of $1 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) for TRS-Care, stating “it’s bold.” The bill would instruct TRS to use $250 million per year to help with out-of-pocket costs for plan participants through the year 2021.

“I think there’s a will in the House to do more than what we have done in the past,” Gooden said.

Chairman Trent Ashby (R – Lufkin), who was the author of HB 3976 during the regular session, laid out HB 20 before the committee. “It became apparent to me…that more needs to be done if possible,” he said, after hearing concerns from many of his retiree constituents about the rising cost of health care.

HB 20 would appropriate $212.7 million from the ESF to bring down premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for participants in TRS-Care. A description of the proposed changes introduced in HB 20 can be found below, along with the proposed changes offered through the Senate plan in SB 19.

“The Legislature needs to take further steps next session to attain greater, more permanent solvency,” said Ashby, adding that the Legislature should “erase the burden on retired teachers as much as we can.”

Representative Donna Howard (D – Austin) said in reference to using the ESF, “My understanding is that…we have a higher than projected revenue coming in from natural gas, and if that continues then we could have enough funding there in excess of what had been projected.” She asked if this surplus could go towards funding the changes proposed in HB 20. She said the money needs to be used for the people of the state of Texas and hopes more colleagues can agree with using ESF dollars.

Representative Gooden said that retirees do not have the option of deferring their water payment or other utility bills until the next year. “They have to dip into their savings,” he added.

“You either stop spending or you dip into your own savings,” he said, suggesting that the state should spend some of its “mattress money” from the ESF.

Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas (R – Richmond) agreed, saying that teachers should not be ignored and the Legislature should address “the most important things facing us right now.”

A representative from the Comptroller’s office provided projections for the ESF, saying Texas would end this fiscal year with a balance of $10.25 billion in the fund, and that it would increase to $10.39 by end of FY 18 and to $11.34 billion by end of FY 19.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified on all of the proposed bills, thanking the Governor, as well as House and Senate leaders for ensuring that TRS-Care was added to the call.

Lee stated that TRS-Care was close to falling apart completely before changes were made during the regular session through HB 3976, but that “many retirees became aware of this only after the legislation passed.”

“If I were a public employee, I would very much be concerned about the cost of health care,” Lee said, adding that the funding mechanism for TRS-Care is broken. “We cannot pay for TRS-Care with a percentage of payroll that has gone up by .25 percent in the last 15 years,” Lee continued.

“It’s really come down to a discussion about what is the potential method of finance. I support whatever we can all agree to,” said Lee. “The one method I know that isn’t working…is that retirees pay.”

Lee encouraged the House members to work to find agreement with the Senate, saying that retirees’ biggest fear is that nothing will happen during the special session to help them with ballooning health care costs. Chairman Zerwas assured Lee that the House would work with their Senate colleagues.

All bills were left pending in committee. TRTA will keep members informed about the progress of the bills as special session continues.

As our members know, multiple bills have been filed during this special session to help retirees. As our members also know, it is vital that agreement between the Senate and the House be found in order for this additional help to be received.

TRTA encourages its members to follow their legislators’ Facebook pages and communicate with them often during special session. A lot of positive work is being done to help retired teachers right now, and it is vital that we keep the lines of communications open with our Senators and Representatives.

Please ask your legislators to work with their colleagues to add as much additional funding to TRS-Care as possible! Not on Facebook? Use our toll-free Legislator Hotline to call your legislators today: 1.888.674.3788!

Comparison of SB 19 and HB 20

Senate Bill 19

Reduce deductible for Non-Medicare Retirees:

To reduce the deductible for the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $115 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree/Family Deductibles From $3,000/$6,000 to $1,500/$3,000

Reduce premiums for retirees with adult disabled children:

TRS-Care has approximately 570 adult incapacitated children of TRS retirees. If the legislature were to reduce the premiums by $200 per month in the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $2.736 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $433 to $233

Non-Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,074 to $874

Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $304

Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,106 to $906

Reduce maximum out-of-pocket for retirees with adult disabled children:

To reduce the maximum out-of-pocket for retirees with adult disabled children, it would require approximately an additional $10 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree/Family Maximum Out-of-Pocket

From $6,550/$13,300 to $3,000/$6,000

Reduce premiums for Medicare Retiree:

To reduce premiums by $25 for all Medicare retirees in the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $84 million for the biennium.

Medicare Retiree from $146 to $121

Medicare Retiree & Spouse from $590 to $565

Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $479

Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,106 to $1,081

Total Additional funding for FY 2018-19:

$212 million, paid from MCO deferrals

House Bill 20

Reduce deductible for Non-Medicare Retirees:

To reduce the deductible for the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $115 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree/Family Deductibles

From $3,000/$6,000 to $1,500/$3,000

Reduce premiums for retirees with adult disabled children:

TRS-Care has approximately 570 adult incapacitated children of TRS retirees. If the legislature were to reduce the premiums by $200 per month in the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $2.736 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $433 to $208*

Non-Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,074 to $749*

Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $279*

Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,106 to $781*

Reduce maximum out-of-pocket for Non-Medicare Retirees:

To increase funding to reduce the maximum out-of-pocket for non-Medicare retirees in the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $18.7 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree/Family Maximum Out-of-Pocket From $6,650/$13,300 to $5,650/$11,300

Reduce premiums for Spouses:

If the legislature were to reduce premiums by $100 for spouses in both plans in the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $71 million for the biennium.

Non-Medicare Retiree & Spouse from $739 to $639

Non-Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,074 to $974*

Medicare Retiree & Spouse from $590 to $490

Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,106 to $1,006*

Reduce premiums for covered children:

If the legislature were to reduce premiums by $25 for all children covered in both plans in the 2018-2019 plan years, it would require approximately an additional $5.3 million for the biennium. This would result in a combination of spousal and child reduction of $125 in the Retiree & Family tier.*

Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $433 to $408

Non-Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,074 to $949*

Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $479

Medicare Retiree & Family from $1,106 to $981*

*Reductions are cumulative

Total Additional State/District Contribution for FY 2018-19:

$212.7 million, paid from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF).

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA! TRTA has more than 82,000 members, but there are more than 350,000 TRS retirees. That means hundreds of thousands of TRS retirees are not involved in the largest retiree organization advocating for their TRS benefits.

To improve funding for TRS-Care, we need as many retirees as possible to join TRTA and stand with us!

It is vital that you join TRTA today! If you already are a member, please ask your fellow retirees to join. Many retirees are still unaware of the impending TRS-Care changes! Let’s all work together to improve retirement benefits for current and future retirees.

Be sure to connect with us via FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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24 Jul
0

House Appropriations Meets Tomorrow, Expanded Review of Senate Bill 19

As the first called special session of the 85th Legislature continues, members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) are hearing intense discussions about bills that may impact their retirement benefits.

House Appropriations Meets Tuesday, July 25

Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 25, the House Appropriations Committee will meet to discuss several bills impacting retirement benefits for Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) retirees. The meeting will begin at approximately 10:00 a.m. after the full House has adjourned or recessed in Room E1.030 of the Texas Capitol. A live webcast of the meeting will be made available from this webpage once the meeting begins. TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee will testify.

TRTA encourages members living in the area who are able to come to Austin tomorrow to attend!

The following bills are scheduled to be heard during tomorrow’s meeting:

HB 20 Author: Ashby | Darby | VanDeaver | Zerwas | Howard
Caption: Relating to an appropriation of money from the economic stabilization fund to decrease health insurance premiums and deductibles for certain health benefit plans administered by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

 

HB 76 Author: Darby | Guillen | Oliveira
Caption: Relating to a supplemental appropriation for Teacher Retirement System of Texas retiree health.

 

HB 80 Author: Darby | Guillen | Oliveira
Caption: Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

 

HB 151 Author: Gooden | Guillen | Thompson, Senfronia | Darby | Cook
Caption: Relating to the administration of certain group benefits by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas; making an appropriation.

Expanded Review of Senate Finance Committee Meeting, SB 19

As our members know, the Senate Finance Committee met this past Saturday, July 22to discuss Senate Bill 19. The bill was filed for the first called special session of the 85th Legislature by Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound) and co-authored by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston).

SB 19 lays out the Texas Senate’s plan for providing additional revenue to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. The Senate’s plan to address TRS-Care funding includes as much as $212 million in additional funding. To read the full text of SB 19, please click here. You can view archived footage of the meeting by clicking here. Discussion of SB 19 begins at about 35 minutes into the meeting.

During the meeting, Senator Huffman shared a history of TRS-Care funding problems, stating that “the structural funding of TRS-Care is flawed. Because funding is based on percentages of active employee payroll rather than actual healthcare costs, we continue to face shortfalls every biennium.”

The Legislature chose to freeze premiums and deductibles for retirees from 2005 until the recent 85th Legislative Session, which further compounded the program’s funding problems. In 2015, the Legislature paid $768 million to cover the TRS-Care shortfall; however, the shortfall ballooned to over $1 billion by 85th Legislative Session. Senator Huffman stated that “even after major reforms, we still could have problems next session,” as the TRS-Care shortfall is projected to be between $300 to $500 million by 2019.

“I can say with assurance that no one in the Legislature wanted to leave the retired teachers without health insurance,” said Huffman, after explaining that House Bill 3976, which made significant structural changes to TRS-Care, passed unanimously in both bodies at the end of the 85th Regular Session to avoid a complete shutdown of the program.

Huffman also said that she, Chairman Nelson, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have made a commitment to continue the added benefits being provided by SB 19. “Our intention moving forward is that this will be your benefits… we intend to make it a priority.”

Senator Kirk Watson (D – Austin) asked if the additional funding provided by SB 19 is intended to be permanent. Huffman replied that it is the intent to keep the funding in base budget. Watson stated “if what we want to do is make it a commitment, the way to make it a commitment would be to raise the state’s statutory contribution rate,” and asked “have you identified what you would recommend we use as a source of funding beyond this?”

Huffman said that it has been discussed. “As you know it’s difficult to commit to a future Legislature how we are going to do things . . . but I think publicly stating that the commitment is here for the retired teachers is significant and meaningful. I’m confident that it means we will continue to do what we need to do for the retired teachers.”

Huffman reiterated that part of the issue is TRS-Care’s flawed funding mechanism, and expressed hope that TRS-Care would be part of discussion on public school finance next session, though this is not how the Legislature has traditionally addressed funding for TRS-Care.

Chairman Nelson replied by saying “we need to take advantage of the opportunity we have of this being placed on the call and we need to look at how can we use this to get us up to next session…it’s all about us and where the Legislature is going to place our priorities next session, and I’m telling you right here right now my priority is going to be on our teachers next time.” She continued “I can promise you is it will be a top priority and I actually heard our Lieutenant Governor say this is going to be a priority.”

Senator John Whitmire (D – Houston) echoed some of Senator Watson’s remarks by urging committee members to “keep working…with some very real, concrete solutions” and to “work with the House better than we are.”

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie and Chief Health Care Officer Katrina Daniel served as resource witnesses for the committee, and addressed inquiries about future shortfalls. The TRS-Care shortfall is expected to be between $500 and $700 million by 2020-2021, $2 billion by 2022-2023, and between $3 and $3.5 billion by 2024-2025.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified during the meeting, thanking Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick for focusing on TRS-Care, as well as Senator Huffman for her tireless work on the program and Chairman Nelson for her work to find the money to pay for the proposed changes in SB 19.

“I want to thank all of you for what I think is the most human discussion I’ve ever heard on the TRS-Care issue.” Tim continued by saying that “we are in a moment in time where we have a chance to do something, and I am heartened to hear that we will come back with another focus on this in the future session.”

“My members are scared and they’re afraid and they’re concerned–they don’t know how they’re going to pay for their medicine,” said Lee. “These are important issues. Whatever goes on between the House and the Senate this special session, I implore you please do not let this session end with nothing happening…something has to happen.” Lee said that the Texas House is discussing possible use of the Rainy Day Fund to help with TRS-Care, saying that retirees are grateful their program survived but many “do not know how they are going to pay the cost of the care.”

Huffman thanked Tim for his work, saying he and TRTA have been instrumental in bringing the concerns of the retired teachers to the Senate. She also agreed that the Senate needs to work with the House on this issue.

Finalizing his remarks, Lee said “we are struggling against something that none of us control, and that is the price of healthcare,” adding that “while I cannot say one approach is better than the other, I will say that the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, members of this committee, members of the Legislature—I appreciate the focus on this issue and so do my members.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham) discussed cost drivers for the program, stating that “we (the Legislature) are not going to be able to afford the trajectory we are on, not just as a state, but as a nation.”

Senator Watson responded by saying “we have an obligation to meet the needs of these people that we’ve made commitments to that are our retired teachers in the context of whatever is the cost of medical care. I don’t want anybody to listen to us complain about the cost of medical care…as though that is an excuse for us not properly funding these programs.” The true burden, he said, is on the retirees.

TRTA appreciates the many comments and concerns expressed by members of the Senate Finance Committee, and will work with both the Senate and the House to ensure that financial relief for retirees is passed during the special session.

TRTA Advocacy Tip for Members

Let’s take this opportunity we have during special session to be as effective as possible! TRTA encourages members to like their legislators’ Facebook pages and communicate with them often during special session. A lot of positive work is being done to help retired teachers right now, and it is vital that we keep the lines of communications open with our Senators and Representatives.

Please ask your legislators to work with their colleagues to add as much additional funding to TRS-Care as possible! Not on Facebook? Use our toll-free Legislator Hotline to call your legislators today: 1.888.674.3788!

Senate Bill 19 Proposed Changes

Senate Bill 19 Proposed Deductible Changes

Non-Medicare Retiree/Family Deductibles
From $3000/$6000 to $1500/$3000

Medicare Retirees
Medicare Retiree from $146 to $121
Medicare Retiree & Spouse from $590 to $565
Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $479
Medicare Retiree & Family from $1106 to $1081

Retirees with Adult Disabled Children
Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $433 to $233
Non-Medicare Retiree & Family from $1074 to $874
Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $304
Medicare Retiree & Family from $1106 to $906

Senate Bill 19 Proposed MOOP Changes

Non-Medicare Retiree/Family with Adult Disabled Children Maximum Out-of-Pocket
From $6650/$13,300 to $3000/$6000

TRS-Care Premiums
Current 2017 Premiums
Vs. HB 3976 (Passed during Regular Session)
Vs. SB 19 (Proposed, not yet passed)

Current Premiums 1/1/2018 Illustrative Retiree Premiums (HB 3976) Senate Bill 19 Illustrative Premiums
Prior to January 1, 2018 Calendar Year 2018 Calendar Year 2019 Calendar Year 2018 Calendar Year 2019

Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $0 – $310
Retiree & Spouse= $30 – $665
Retiree & Child(ren)= $28-$392
Retiree & Family= $58 – $747

Medicare B Only Retirees
Retiree Only= $0-$245
Retiree & Spouse= $25-$600
Retiree & Child(ren)= $34 – $327
Retiree & Family= $59 – $682

Medicare A&B Retirees
Retiree Only= $0 – $110
Retiree & Spouse= $20 – $465
Retiree & Child(ren)= $41 – $192
Retiree & Family= $61 – $547

Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $200
Retiree & Spouse= $739
Retiree & Child(ren)= $433
Retiree & Family=$1074

Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $146
Retiree & Spouse=$590
Retiree & Child(ren)= $504
Retiree & Family= $1106

Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874

Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $250
Retiree & Spouse= $789
Retiree & Child(ren)= $483
Retiree & Family=$1124

Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $146
Retiree & Spouse=$590
Retiree & Child(ren)= $504
Retiree & Family= $1106

Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874

Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $200
Retiree & Spouse= $739
Retiree & Child(ren)= $433
Retiree & Family=$1074

Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $121
Retiree & Spouse=$565
Retiree & Child(ren)= $479
Retiree & Family= $1081

Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874

Retirees with Adult Disabled Children
Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $784

Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $304
Retiree & Family= $906

Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $250
Retiree & Spouse= $789
Retiree & Child(ren)= $483
Retiree & Family=$1124

Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $121
Retiree & Spouse=$565
Retiree & Child(ren)= $479
Retiree & Family= $1081

Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874

Retirees with Adult Disabled Children
Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $283
Retiree & Family= $924

Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $304
Retiree & Family= $906

Currently, any retiree who selects TRS-Care 1 with retiree-only coverage has a $0 premium. Premiums for Care 2 & 3 are currently determined by a retiree’s Medicare status and years of service.

Beginning 1/1/2018, TRS will provide a $0 premium for current disability retirees through 2021, a blended stair-step premium for non-Medicare retirees and a blended premium for Medicare eligible retirees regardless of whether or not they are eligible for Part A at no cost or purchased Part B.

 

Prescription Coverage

No changes were made to the proposed prescription drug plan designs from HB 3976.

1/1/2018 Standard Plan 1/1/2018 Medicare Advantage Plan
Retail Copays Non-Medicare retirees (under age 65) All Medicare retirees (age 65 and older)
Generic Preventative Maintenance $0
80%/20% (after deductible is met)
$5
Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $25
Non-Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $50
Mail Order Copays
Generic 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $15
Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $70
Non-Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $125

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA! TRTA has more than 82,000 members, but there are more than 350,000 TRS retirees. That means hundreds of thousands of TRS retirees are not involved in the largest retiree organization advocating for their TRS benefits.

To improve funding for TRS-Care, we need as many retirees as possible to join TRTA and stand with us!

It is vital that you join TRTA today! If you already are a member, please ask your fellow retirees to join. Many retirees are still unaware of the impending TRS-Care changes! Let’s all work together to improve retirement benefits for current and future retirees.

Be sure to connect with us via FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Read More
22 Jul
0

Senate Finance Meets to Discuss SB 19

Today, Saturday, July 22, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss Senate Bill 19. The bill was filed for the first called special session of the 85th Legislature by Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound) and co-authored by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston).

SB 19 relates to bonuses and salaries for public school classroom teachers and state assistance for the Texas Public School Employees Group Insurance Program, including TRS-Care. To read the full text of the bill, please click here.

SB 19 lays out the Texas Senate’s plan for providing additional revenue to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. The Senate’s plan to address TRS-Care funding includes as much as $212 million in additional funding that will be used to lower deductibles for pre-65 TRS retirees from $3,000 to $1,500 for individuals and from $6000 to $3000 for families.

The plan will also help reduce premiums for retirees age 65 and older by $25. Medicare retiree only premium would go from $146 to $121. Retiree plus spouse premiums would go from $590 to $565. Retiree plus child(ren) premiums would go from $504 to $479. Retiree plus family premiums would go from $1106 to $1081.

Please note, TRTA continues to work with major carriers to find Medicare supplement solutions at the lowest cost possible. As the largest retired teacher organization in the nation, we partner with more than 30 other associations around the country representing retired school employees and other public servants. TRTA will use its influence to develop and offer an alternative Medicare supplement for its members and their dependents. As soon as more information becomes available about these options, TRTA will share them.

SB 19 would also provide assistance to retirees who have adult incapacitated children with disabilities, reducing premiums by $200 per month. Non-Medicare retiree plus child premiums would go from $433 to $233, Non-Medicare retiree plus family would go from $1074 to $874, Medicare retiree plus child would go from $504 to $304, and Medicare retiree plus family would go from $1106 to $906. SB 19 would also reduce the maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) for retirees with adult disabled children from $6650/$13,300 to $3000/$6000.

Once a Non-Medicare retiree reaches the annual deductible in the 2018 standard plan, the plan will pay 80% of eligible in-network medical and prescription expenses, and once they reach the MOOP the plan pays %100 of eligible in-network medical and prescription expenses.

Preventive services such as annual physicals, cancer screenings, immunizations and flu shots are available at no cost to retirees. HB 3976, passed during the regular 85thLegislative Session, also covers preventative maintenance generic drugs at no cost to Non-Medicare retirees in the HD plan.

In a video shared by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick yesterday, he stated that this Senate plan will make the additional funding from SB 19 permanent in the next legislative session. If this additional funding becomes part of the ongoing budget strategy for TRS-Care, it will have a very positive long-term impact for this vital program.

Senator Kirk Watson (D – Austin) and other Senators serving on the committee pointed out during today’s hearing that funding for TRS-Care must be tied to a funding source in order for the changes laid out in SB 19 to become permanent. In other words, the state contribution rate will need to be increased if this funding is to be added to the base budget for TRS-Care during the next regular legislative session. Right now, we have a commitment from the Senate to make this permanent funding a priority. TRTA believes Chairman Jane Nelson is intent on doing that.
More Details to Come Soon

Tim Lee, Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), testified during today’s hearing, expressing the need for retirees living on average fixed annuities of $2000 or less per month to have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Many valuable remarks were made by state Senators today that TRTA will share in a more extended update next week.

As our members may know, multiple bills have been filed this special session to address TRS-Care funding and other benefit adjustments for Texas public education retirees. You can view a list of those bills by clicking here. As our members also know, it is vital that agreement between both bodies of the Legislature be found in order for this additional help to be received.

Texas House members have also proposed several options for providing additional funding for TRS-Care. TRTA urges the Legislature to work collectively to ensure that the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program receives additional funding and retirees receive some financial relief.

Today’s hearing was the first step of many more to come during this fast-paced and productive special session. Please stay tuned daily to TRTA for any urgent updates about issues impacting your retirement benefits during the special session.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA! TRTA has more than 82,000 members, but there are more than 350,000 TRS retirees. That means hundreds of thousands of TRS retirees are not involved in the largest retiree organization advocating for their TRS benefits.

To improve funding for TRS-Care, we need as many retirees as possible to join TRTA and stand with us!

It is vital that you join TRTA today! If you already are a member, please ask your fellow retirees to join. Many retirees are still unaware of the impending TRS-Care changes! Let’s all work together to improve retirement benefits for current and future retirees.

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