17 Oct

TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: Rate of Return

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas revised its rate of return assumption on July 27th. The rate of return assumption is a measure used by TRS to project investment returns. The TRS board voted lower its rate of return assumption from 8 percent to 7.25 percent.
This lowered assumption will not affect the amount of money current retirees are receiving in their annuities. However, it makes a cost-of-living adjustment significantly more difficult going forward for all current AND future retirees. Retirees already struggle to make ends meet, living on incomes that do not match up with modern-day expenses.
Texas has a rule in place that prohibits TRS from distributing a COLA unless TRS is projected to pay off its unfunded liabilities within 31 years. Many TRS retirees have languished without a COLA since retiring. The last COLA that went to retirees was provided in 2013. The COLA only served those who retired before Sept. 1st, 2004. If you retired after that date, you’ve never seen an increase in your monthly annuity, and your annuity may have even gone down after health care costs increased dramatically this year.

Did you know that more than 100,000 TRS retirees receive less than $1,000 per month from their annuity? TRS retirees receive a modest income. While there is no promise that benefits will increase, it is a reasonable expectation that they will increase over time. Now that the rate of return assumption has been lowered, retirees have been told it could be 50 to 100 years before they receive a benefit increase of any kind.
This issue is not limited to retired educators. Active educators have a stake in this too. Some politicians will use the lowered rate of return assumption as a window to break down the defined benefit plan that active educators are paying in to. If you have a son or a daughter in education, this is their fight too!
It is likely that one of two things will happen to the pension fund after this legislative session: either the Legislature will adopt a plan to adequately fund the pension system or current and future retirees will see their benefits reduced over time! The formula is simple: contributions plus investments equal benefits! With a lowered rate of return assumption, there will be less money to ensure that the promises made will be kept.
While these changes may not happen immediately, the end result is that future retirees will receive a much lower benefit for their years of service. And current retirees will never receive a COLA or benefit adjustment in their lifetime.
We are asking all TRTA members to reach out to their legislators and candidates running for political office. Ask them to set a policy that will provide adequate funding for the TRS pension fund so that retirees can receive a much-needed COLA or other benefit increase. Retiree income needs to keep up with the increasing health care costs and modern-day expenses. Future retirees shouldn’t have to go decades without an increase in benefits.
Everyone running for office in Texas should know, understand, and agree that TRS retirees deserve retirement security including a well-funded pension plan. TRS Retirees Deserve Better!

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16 Oct

Countdown to the General Election: Texas Educator Voting Day is October 22!

Countdown to the General Election: Texas Educator Voting Day is October 22!

Early voting begins next Monday, October 22 and continues through Friday, November 2. Please make a plan to vote early!

We encourage you to support your local educators and new student voters by voting on Texas Educator Voting Day. Texas Educators Vote and many other education organizations across Texas are celebrating our Texas success in registering over 1.7 million new voters this year—a record for a mid-term election in Texas—by encouraging educators to go vote together. Please read the message below from Texas Educators Vote.

Educator Voting Day: October 22, 2018

We have just passed the voter registration deadline, and there are now more than 15.7 million registered Texans! That is an increase of close to 1.7 million voters since 2014. Your dedication to registering all staff and students surely contributed to this 12% increase in registered voters.

Now is the time to make sure that every registered voter actually votes. In March 2018, 77% of voting-age Texans were registered to vote, but only 13% voted. Registration is a necessary first step, but turnout determines elections.

We hereby declare the first day of early voting, October 22nd, 2018, to be Educator Voting Day! Encourage your staff to vote early, wear their “I Voted” sticker, and model civic engagement for students! The Texas Secretary of State has declared the first Friday of early voting to be Student Voting Day. Please plan for both of these important upcoming events.

To do:

  1.      Share the news that Monday, October 22nd is Educator Voting Day.
  2.      Share the news that Friday, October 26th is Student Voting Day.
  3.      Encourage voters to research candidates and their views on public education issues.
  4.      Share our website where voters can learn about how and why voting is so important.
  5.      Share key dates:
    1.      October 22-November 2: Early voting period
    2.      October 22: Educator Voting Day
    3.      October 26: Student Voting Day
    4.      November 6: Election Day

Social Media Posts you may share:

  1. Educator Voting Day is October 22nd. Model civic engagement by voting the first day of early voting and proudly wearing your “I Voted” sticker! #txed #vote
  2. Student Voting Day is October 26th. Share the news! #txed #vote
  3. Elections are determined by who shows up! Plan when and how you will vote today! #txed #vote 

TRTA says “Thank you!” to our leaders and all of our dedicated members for your efforts to encourage civic engagement. You should feel great about what we have accomplished together so far! Let’s celebrate by crossing the finish line together: VOTE EARLY!

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10 Oct

Your Health Care Coverage: Making the Best Choice

From time to time the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) previews its news bulletin, The VOICE.

Below you will find excerpts from an article on how TRTA is working to preserve TRS-Care and provide the best health care options for retired educators.

You can read the entire article here.

TRS–Care has provided health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of retired educators and many dependents for more than three decades—a much needed benefit for those who dedicated their lives to school children and who live on modest fixed incomes. Legislative changes in 2017 resulted in a plan that does not always fit all needs for all plan participants.

The changes to TRS–Care last year created a difficult situation for many Texas public education retirees, not just for plan participants, but also for the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and legislators. Previously, TRS–Care offered multiple plans to choose from. Now there’s one (each for over 65 retirees and for under-65 retirees), and that one–size–fits–all plan doesn’t work for every retiree or dependent. This new reality is motivating some TRS-Care participants to consider the individual Medicare marketplace where health care options vary widely.

More than 37,000 TRS-Care participants left and enrolled in an individual plan in 2017. Since then, many TRTA members have told us that a local broker has advertised that they can offer members a lower rate and better coverage than the current TRS–Care plan. Members have asked us if that is true and, if so, is TRTA offering any sponsored, trusted program to evaluate alternative options to TRS–Care? Whether TRS-Care is right for you depends on your individual needs.

In an effort to help our members, we’ve taken an in-depth look at TRS-Care, and you will find this information in the upcoming edition of The VOICE.

Due to our members’ demand for TRTA to find a trusted partner in the individual Medicare marketplace, we are proud to announce our partnership with Via Benefits Insurance Services brought to you by our benefits partner AMBA.

Does that Mean TRTA is in the Insurance Business? Is TRTA Competing Against TRS-Care?

No, TRTA is not in the insurance business. We are not competing with TRS or TRS-Care.

We are working with Via Benefits to provide a marketplace of Medicare policy options to retirees over the age of 65 with both Medicare A and B coverage. We’ve developed this plan because TRTA represents the entire population of TRS retirees. Prior to the changes to TRS-Care, there were many TRTA members in the individual Medicare marketplace. Since the changes, that number has grown significantly, and all of these members are looking to TRTA for a trusted partner to work with.

That tells us a lot of people need help with their Medicare options. TRTA’s number one priority is helping public education retirees. We’re leveraging our membership size with Via Benefits to offer something that our members can use and that no one else can deliver. Via Benefits is a trusted benefit partner with organizations in the states of Ohio and Nevada, and with large private employers like General Motors. TRTA is the largest retired educator organization in the nation and we are offering a marketplace driven solution for those who need it.

What do you say to someone considering the individual marketplace?

The first thing I tell them is to stop and evaluate their position. If you leave, you can’t come back. If you’re a dependent, and you’re saying that you need something else, then I would look to a marketplace solution that’s very transparent. But first you should talk to TRS for consultation. If the issue with the health care is purely about cost, then you can compare TRS–Care to the marketplace. If there’s another reason, then I suspect that a lot of those issues can be resolved by working with TRS. If you decide to leave TRS–Care, work with a partner that you can trust. TRTA has searched all over the country for a group we believe represents our values and expectations when working with a retiree or dependent who needs a plan in the individual Medicare marketplace.

TRTA supports TRS–Care as the best first option for retirees.

Who’s Via Benefits?

Via Benefits is the oldest and largest private Medicare marketplace that will, at no cost to you, review your health care plan to ensure that you have the coverage that is right for your 2019 needs and budget.

They do this by comparing your current coverage and anticipated needs to the coverage offered by the leading national and regional plans available in your area. They offer a selection of affordable and competitive plans including Medicare Advantage, guaranteed issue Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans.

A 15–minute conversation with a Via Benefits licensed benefit advisor will help you understand whether an individual Medicare plan is a better fit—offering equal to or better coverage for less cost. These knowledgeable advisors have helped more than 1.8 million retirees find coverage that meets their needs and budget.

Is TRTA Recommending this Over TRS–Care?

We know your health care options have changed. Everyone’s situation is unique. For many, TRS–Care is still a great option. For others, TRS–Care does not fit as well as it once did when there were more plan options. We want what is best for every TRS retiree. If you are a TRTA member and you want an option in the individual Medicare marketplace, you won’t find a better partner than Via Benefits.

What You Can Expect When You Call Via Benefits

The advisor will ask a few questions, such as:

  • How is your health?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Who are your doctors, and what are your preferred hospitals?
  • What are your 2019 travel plans (if you plan to travel)?
  • What do you like about your current TRS–Care coverage?

They’ll take this information and find a selection of insurance plans that meet the criteria you’ve outlined. They’ll review each option, giving you ample opportunity to clarify plan details. Once you understand the plans available in your area and how they compare to your current plan, you’ll be able to make an informed choice about your 2019 coverage. If the advisor’s recommendation is that TRS–Care is the right plan for your needs and budget, the advisor will let you know. If you decide that an alternative plan is a better fit, the advisor will help you complete and submit your application.

Via Benefits:

  • Has been vetted and approved by TRTA and AMBA
  • Employs benefit advisors that provide unbiased advice at no cost to you—benefit advisors are salaried and focused on finding you the right plan
  • Offers thousands of plans from over 125 insurers
  • Enables you to evaluate and understand your coverage options

Why You Should Review Your Health Care Coverage Every Year

  • Your needs and medications change, and so should your coverage
  • Plan rates change
  • Peace of mind

Is TRTA Being Paid by Via Benefits to Offer This Alternative?

No, TRTA is not being paid by Via Benefits. This is an option we support for our members to have the flexibility they may need in their health care choices.

As a reminder, be sure to look for the complete article when The VOICE is released!

VIA Benefits Contact Information

+1 888 651 7306 | TTY: 711
Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.


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