Blog

02 Sep
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Work on WEP Underway! Share Your Story Today!

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) have been working hard all summer to achieve results on the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Many have contacted their congressmen and friends in other states impacted by the WEP, encouraging them to do the same.

In July, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (HR 711) was scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, but received a disappointing setback when groups working on the bill couldn’t come to an agreement on the bill’s provisions.

Representative Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands), the author of the bill and head of Ways and Means, postponed the bill until agreement could be found. Since that time, Brady has been working diligently to enhance and promote HR 711.

This week, Congressman Brady released a new blog entry online explaining why the WEP is so unfair. Please read Brady’s full update by clicking here.

Among Brady’s reasons for calling the WEP unfair, he says “the benefits for workers who choose to serve their communities are calculated differently than other workers.” He also goes into great detail about how Social Security benefits are calculated for standard workers and how that differs from the way public servants are treated. This blog posts serves as a great resource for explaining this unfair law to family, friends and colleagues who want to learn more.

Members, Chairman Brady wants to hear how the WEP has impacted you as the Ways and Means Committee works on a solution to treat all workers fairly. Please share your story about how the WEP has impacted you by sending an email to WEP.feedback@mail.house.gov.

Progress on the WEP is not lost; in fact, the CLOCK IS TICKING. Congress reconvenes this month and we have no time to waste to get H.R. 711 back on track for a committee vote! Sharing your story will go a long way towards helping HR 711 succeed!

If you are not already a member of TRTA, please join today. Only by working together will we be able to resolve the WEP. If you are already a member, please encourage your fellow retirees to join and renew.

TRTA is ready to get to work on finding agreement with advocacy groups across the country, and will do so tirelessly until our members and public service retirees across the nation receive some financial relief!

Thank You

We would like to thank our members, our national coalition partners and all those who have made phone calls and sent letters on this issue. We will be asking for your help again in the very near future, and we ask for your patience and continued support.

TRTA especially thanks Chairman Brady for his tireless work on the bill, as well as Congressman Neal for his steadfast support and passionate plea for all groups to come together in agreement.

TRTA will continue to provide national leadership and help others come to the table on this critical issue. Please be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube to stay up-to-date on all our legislative news.

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19 Aug
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Details Start to Come Into Focus for Upcoming TRS-Care Changes

Starting Sept. 1, TRS-Care participants will begin paying increased deductibles and out-of-pocket limits. These changes were approved by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to the health care program in a June 16 Board meeting.

TRS-Care serves more than 250,000 retired educators, but its funding has been at a critically low level. Without the assurance that the health care plan would remain solvent through Aug. 2017, the TRS Board of Trustees made changes to save TRS-Care money.

TRS began detailing these changes to members in its recently released August newsletter. The changes to deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are the first of several changes, which are projected to save the program close to $40 million.

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, the prescription drug plan for Medicare eligible participants will be the Express Scripts Medicare Part D plan. Additionally, a $10 convenience fee will be charged to members after the first fill for maintenance drugs dispensed at retail pharmacies.

Another significant change occurring in January will be a switch to Humana for all Medicare Advantage plans through TRS-Care. To find out if your provider accepts to Humana, please call 1-800-320-9566. The 2017 benefits and premiums for Medicare Advantage plans will stay the same as they were in 2016.

TRS also briefly discussed some of these changes in the latest edition of TRS Today.

These changes are the first of many that could occur for TRS-Care unless it receives a significant funding overhaul from the Texas Legislature in 2017. TRS-Care is expected to face a $1.5 billion funding shortfall, and the only way the program can continue to provide affordable, quality health care services is from a commitment by the Texas Legislature to its retired state educators.

TRTA needs your help to ensure the future of this vital health care program. For many participants, increasing health care costs are a life and death issue.

How you can help:

  1. Encourage your friends, family and co-workers to join and renew with TRTA.
  2. Attend TRTA local unit meetings.
  3. Establish a relationship with your Texas Legislators, and be prepared to vote in the General Election.
  4. Stay alert to TRTA Inside Line updates, and be ready for calls to action.
  5. Read our issues of The VOICE.

Thank You

Thank you for your support of TRTA. We are committed to getting you all the information you need to know about changes to TRS-Care, and we are prepared to fight for your benefits in the Texas Capitol!

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

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29 Jul
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TRS Board of Trustees Talks Budget, Plans for TRS-Care

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees met today, July 29, to discuss TRS-Care and budget requests that will be made to the Texas Legislature later this summer.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee provided impassioned public comment, approaching the trustees with heartfelt concern about the looming TRS-Care budget crisis.

Lee stressed that the participants in the retiree health insurance program pay $1.4 billion in revenue to sustain the program annually (35 percent of the program’s total revenue), while the state pays $300 million and school districts pay $150 million per year approximately. The health care plan covers 260,000 lives, and provides a vital, quality retirement benefit.

Lee also expressed that TRTA members are concerned about the $40 million in changes to TRS-Care that were approved by the TRS Board of Trustees during their June meeting. TRS is still working to enact those changes and develop a frequently asked questions list. In the meantime, our members may learn more about these changes by clicking here. Those changes will go into effect this September.

Lee communicated a deep desire for legislators, stakeholders and TRS to come to the table as quickly as possible to address the TRS-Care crisis.

A joint select committee on TRS-Care was established at the end of the 84th Legislative Session. The legislative members named to this group are: Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston) – Co-Chair, Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); and Representatives Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – Co-Chair, Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio).

On March 30, the committee held its first hearing to discuss TRS-Care, which TRTA reviewed in the Inside Line. During the meeting, each legislator was divided on how to approach the conversation of solving the TRS-Care crisis.

Though no additional public meetings of the select committee have been held yet, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie reassured all those listening that the committee members have been requesting information and “vetting and re-vetting” the potential solutions presented by Mr. Guthrie at the March 30 meeting.

While TRTA and other stakeholder groups do not know what direction the legislative study group intends to take at this time, the study group plans to present a comprehensive report on what they deem a correct course of action, and legislation will likely be filed that provides wide-ranging authority to the TRS Board of Trustees to make changes based on legislative direction. As Tim Lee stated, “we want to solve problems, that’s what we do, we work together.”

The TRS Board of Trustees and Executive Director Guthrie have your best interests as your fiduciaries at heart. Chairman David Kelly remarked, “we understand the crisis . . . and empathize with what TRTA members are going through.”

While progress on resolving the funding issues with TRS-Care may seem slow at times, please know that there are many groups—and many caring people—who are working on TRS-Care every day. TRTA’s visits to the Texas Capitol are not restricted to the 140-day session; in fact, we are visiting legislators and their staff members every week, asking for their support of your top priorities: affordable, quality health care, and protection of your TRS defined benefit plan.

What can TRTA members do to protect their vital health care benefits?

Please encourage others to join TRTA. Our membership exceeds 81,000, but there are more than 260,000 people in TRS-Care! If all 260,000 participants united with TRTA, we would stand a much better chance at funding this program adequately now and in the future.

TRTA members must recognize that the battle for health care funding will be very difficult. We have many friends in the Texas Legislature, but many are saying that fewer dollars will be available. TRTA is a successful advocacy organization because we find ways to work with our elected officials and make good things happen.

It takes hard work and a consistent effort to tell our story. It takes dedicated members willing to call and email their elected officials and let them know our TRS-Care program is in dire circumstances.

The struggle for more funding for the TRS-Care plan is underway already. The Texas Legislature must take a comprehensive look at how they fund this vital retiree health care program.

The changes made to TRS-Care in June may be viewed as a modest reduction in benefits for retirees; however, if the Legislature does not act to deal with this health care crisis, TRS-Care plan design and premium increases may make the plan unrecognizable compared to how we know it today.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We will continue to follow the progress on TRS-Care, and provide you many more opportunities to get involved! 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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