12 Apr

Senate Bill 788 Pulled From Consideration

Earlier today Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) removed Senate Bill 788 from the docket to be considered by the Senate. The bill would have made major reforms to TRS-Care, including creating a high deductible health care plan for pre-65 retired educators and switching all Medicare eligible retirees to Medicare Advantage.

Now that the bill has been pulled, alternative legislation needs to be proposed to fund and maintain TRS-Care. If no alternative legislation is proposed and passed, TRS-Care will not be able to continue. According to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), without new funding and plan design changes, TRS-Care will be sent into a “death spiral.” If this occurs, retired teachers’ health care will go away. TRS-Care’s current budget shortfall is $1 billion.

Retired teachers are willing to do their part in contributing towards a solution to this shortfall. However, some of the provisions in SB 788 were beyond retirees’ means. In particular, the $4,000 deductible and $7,150 out of pocket maximum, combined with no prescription drug plan, was untenable for many pre-65 retirees. The plan could have forced many retirees into poverty in order to maintain the health care plan.

With no Senate action on the immediate horizon, the need for TRTA members to support the House of Representatives’ efforts to propose and pass legislation reforming TRS-Care has increased. We will work with House leaders and appropriators to craft a solution that helps our members and allows them to have access to affordable health care.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) would like to thank the members of the Senate for supporting retired teachers, and we ask them to remain dedicated to finding ways to keep TRS-Care affordable. We look forward to working with legislators to pass legislation to keep TRS-Care sustainable now and into the future.

The legislative process is complex and fast moving. More details will be forthcoming as we receive them.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here. Be sure to read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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

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12 Apr

TRS-Care: What’s Next

Dear TRTA Member,

Thank you for your tireless advocacy efforts in protecting your benefits provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

Your calls, emails and visits to legislators are truly making a difference. Legislators have heard your voice, and are formulating plans to try to help our cause.

However, many legislators are preparing to leave their offices for Easter break.

I want to ask all of you to simply take a breath and rest through this weekend.

There are moments when the best action is to rest, allow others to work on our behalf and reengage when needed. Now is a good time to wait on sending additional communication to your legislators.

It is a critical time in the legislative process. Many legislators are working hard to solve the TRS-Care issue. The issue of funding TRS-Care’s $1 billion budget shortfall to provide health care to retired educators is complicated and challenging.

TRTA is looking forward to working with our House members to create a piece of legislation that keeps TRS-Care affordable.

Our friends in both the House and the Senate are evaluating the best steps to take with the time remaining this session to address the TRS-Care issue.

I am suggesting to you that we give them some time to work together on your behalf, to evaluate what we know and determine the best course of action to pursue.

Our work is not over, not by a long shot, BUT we can and should take a pause on our communication efforts into the legislature. Please rest up for what will be a busy last half of this regular legislative session.

Thank you for all that you do to help us. I say so often that our TRTA members are the best advocates in ALL of Texas. You are all AMAZING!

Please enjoy the weekend break, and let’s all agree that we will regroup next week.

Gratefully yours,
Tim Lee
Executive Director
Texas Retired Teachers Association

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10 Apr

Texas Senate to Vote on SB 788

Use our Action Alert to email your Senator today or call 1-888-674-3788 to talk to your Senator today!

The Texas Senate is preparing to vote on SB 788. SB 788 proposes to dramatically alter the state-run retiree health insurance program, TRS-Care. SB 788 is on the state’s intent calendar. Bills on the intent calendar can be called to vote at any time.

Authored by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), SB 788 proposes to move all pre-65 retirees into a high deductible health care plan. The deductible is expected to be $4,000. Meanwhile, all Medicare eligible retirees, those ages 65 and older, would be put into Medicare Advantage.

The Senate’s budget plan includes $311 million to help fill the $1 billion budget shortfall for TRS-Care. The bill would accomplish this by increased the State’s contribution level to TRS-Care from 1 percent of active teacher payroll to 1.25 percent. However, retirees would pay for the remainder of the budget shortfall, which is projected to be close to $700 million.

The Houston Chronicle released an op-ed on April 7 detailing why they believe SB 788 is a raw deal for retirees:

“Here’s why lawmakers’ math doesn’t add up: Approximately 56,000 teachers with roughly 22,000 dependents have retired after decades of service, are under age 65 and have not yet qualified for Medicare. The average annuity payment for a retired teacher is $2,035 month, before federal income tax. Under the Senate plan, the proposed deductible for the TRS-Care plan would rise from around $400 to $4,000 for an individual. Prescription medication is also subject to the deductible, as there is no prescription drug coverage with this proposal.”

For the high-deductible plan covering participants who are under 65, premiums would gradually increase over the course of four years, beginning in 2018. See an example of proposed premiums for the HD plan below.

· Calendar Year 2018: Retiree only – $250/month, or $3,000 annually with a $4,000 deductible

· Calendar Year 2019: Retiree only – $310/month, or $3,720 annually with a $4,000 deductible

· Calendar Year 2020: Retiree only – $370/month, or $4,440 annually with a $4,000 deductible

· Calendar Year 2021: Retiree only – $430/month, or $5,160 annually with a $4,000 deductible

These are illustrative premiums; actual premiums will depend on funding and plan experience.

Retirees 65 and over would have a health care plan with a $146 per month premium. These retirees would be put into Medicare Advantage. You can read TRTA’s full report on SB 788 from its Senate State Affairs meeting.

Retirees are willing to do our part, but the Legislature must work with us to keep TRS-Care affordable. Please call and email your Senators today to voice your concerns about SB 788. Use our legislative hotline (1-888-674-3788) to call your Senators today!

TRTA members have communicated loud and clear that this plan is unaffordable, and many have recommended the following changes:

  1. The deductible should be lowered from the staggering $4,000 amount.
  2. The Legislature must ensure adequate medical coverage for those in Medicare Advantage. Retired teachers must be assured that there will be network coverage in their area. Many doctors and health care providers tell retirees that they do not accept Medicare Advantage.
  3. The bill should provide a plan for prescription drug coverage for pre-65 retirees.
  4. The Legislature must agree on additional funding for TRS-Care. Current budget scenarios suggest that retirees will carry a disproportionate share of the cost.

You can learn more about the TRS-Care issue by visiting our fact page.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here. Be sure to read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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

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