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14 Dec 2017
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TRS Board Meets, Will Review Actuarial Valuation Tomorrow

Today, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees held its first of two days of meetings. The meetings allow the opportunity for presentations and public comment to made to the TRS Board of Trustees.

The Board received presentations today on the investment environment, TRS’s team-building program, TEAM, and an update from its Executive Director, Brian Guthrie. Tomorrow, the board will receive presentations on the investment fund’s actuarial assumption and an update on the implementation of the changes to TRS-Care.

The meeting was the first since Jarvis V. Hollingsworth, James “Dick” Nance and Nanette Sissney were appointed by Govenor Greg Abbott to the board. Hollingsworth has been appointed as the chair of the board, replacing David Kelly in this position.

Public comment was made today from the Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director, Tim Lee. Lee commended Hollingsworth for his dedication to the board, and said that Hollingsworth had “big shoes to fill.”

Lee discussed the actuarial valuation that the TRS Board will receive tomorrow. The actuarial valuation is a critical component to running a pension fund. The valuation will review how well the pension fund is performing and make a recommendation on whether the actuarial assumption, the amount of money TRS expects to make each year in its investments, needs to change.

Lee said that while a change to the actuarial assumption is “warranted,” it would result in a need for increased legislative funding. Lee said if a reduction in the actuarial assumption was to occur, TRS would need “to be much more aggressive” in its legislative appropriation requests. He also recommended that before the board makes a change to its actuarial assumption, they should receive stakeholder involvement.

Lee discussed the ongoing changes to TRS-Care, the retiree health insurance program provided by TRS, and the communication surrounding these changes. Lee noted that TRTA has “spoken to hundreds, if not thousands, of retirees” about the changes to TRS-Care. Many retirees are unsure about the status of their health insurance. He recommended that TRS increase its communication about how retirees will be charged for their December premiums in January. This issue is of particular importance for those retirees leaving the plan.

During a review of the TEAM program, Ken Welch, the TRS Deputy Director, noted that TRS has struggled to keep up with the communication about changes to TRS-Care. In particular, Welch noted the confusion surrounding whether or not a retiree had opted in to TRS-Care. TRTA encourages all retirees who have questions regarding their insurance to contact TRS at 1-888-237-6762.

Lee also drew attention to TRS return-to-work rules, and the enforcement of these rules on retires. TRTA members with minor violations of return-to-work rules face steep penalties, such as losing an entire month’s pension. These penalties can even occur when the violations are not intentional or very minor.

In addition, some members who signed documents 30 years ago related to teaching in college or community college positions where the Optional Retirement Program was in place are now facing very steep penalties many years after the fact.

Some retirees who signed the Optional Retirement Program documents didn’t fully understand the rules, and are now being penalized decades later. TRS has been reviewing these decades old cases and informing members that because of these documents, they must forfeit their pensions. TRTA does not dispute that rules must be enforced to run an efficient system, but also believes that there are some cases where discretion must be applied based on individual circumstances. TRTA has asked the TRS Board to study these issues and work with stakeholders.

Tomorrow, December 15, will contain a number of very important presentations for the TRS Board. You can view the board’s agenda here. The meeting will have a live webcast, which is available here. TRTA will have a full recap on the actuarial valuation presentation and the health care presentation. You can read the actuary’s report in the board documents here.

Thank You

The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life.  If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

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08 Dec 2017
0

TRS-Care Insurance Cards on the Way

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has received several phone calls and messages this morning after an email was sent out last night regarding TRS-Care.

Specifically, members have been calling to request more information about TRS-Care insurance cards for the coming plan year, which begins on January 1, 2018.

The information that was reported last night stated that participants “auto-enrolled in the TRS-Care plans should have already received their insurance cards in the mail.”

While some participants already have received their insurance cards, many others have not. Some participants have received prescription cards, but not their medical insurance cards.

Please know that the insurance cards are in the process of being mailed. All plan participants should receive their new cards from Humana (for Medicare Advantage) and Aetna (for participants under age 65 in the high-deductible plan) by the end of the month.

Please be sure to read last night’s update if you are not planning to participate in a TRS-Care plan and need more information about insurance options going forward by clicking here.

Thank You

The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life.  If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

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

Creative Commons Photo Credit: Source

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07 Dec 2017
0

Important Health Care Dates and Options for Retirees

As many members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know, the open enrollment date for Medicare Advantage plans ends today, Thursday, December 7, 2017. Some TRS-Care participants who are Medicare-eligible and intend to terminate coverage with TRS-Care may have some questions about their options after today. Please continue reading to learn more about important deadlines and potential options.

If You Are Staying with TRS-Care

The new TRS-Care plans (high-deductible plan for retirees under age 65 and Medicare Advantage for retirees age 65 and older) go into effect on January 1, 2018. Those auto-enrolled in the TRS-Care plans should have already received their insurance cards in the mail. No other action is required at this time. Please contact TRS-Care if you have not received your new insurance cards: 1-888-237-6762.

Important Information About Medicare Options After Today

Notice to Members: You may have more time, known as a special enrollment period (SEP), to buy your new coverage as a result of your coverage with TRS ending. To obtain this SEP, it is necessary to contact the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at www.cms.gov and mention SEPs for Exceptional Conditions under Section 30.4.4. You will need to explain this situation to CMS resulting in your having additional time to make your decision about your future insurance coverage. For a Medicare Supplement you have until December 31, 2017 to take advantage of your Guarantee Issue right if you qualify, though not all TRS members do qualify for a Guarantee Issue right. Also, you will have 63 days from January 1, 2018 to take advantage of the Guarantee Issue if you qualify.

This link on the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) website provides a helpful FAQ that may offer guidance to Medicare-eligible plan participants still weighing their options. It is important to know that you may still have time to select another plan. Please read the FAQ carefully to determine if these options will apply to you.

Per the TRS website:

Notice to Retirees Who Want to Terminate TRS-Care – Deadlines

If you are enrolled in TRS-Care and want to purchase coverage on the individual market, you have access to a special enrollment event through Medicare until February 28, 2018. You may also be eligible for a guaranteed issue period. Please see the table below for your options.

Applies to Participants in:   Notes Ends on
TRS-Care 1

TRS-Care 2

TRS-Care 3

TRS-Care Medicare Advantage 3

Guaranteed Issue:

63 day guaranteed issue period to purchase a Medigap policy.

This allows you to purchase an individual market without health care underwriting. March 4, 2018
TRS-Care 1

TRS-Care 2

TRS-Care 3

TRS-Care Medicare Advantage 2

TRS-Care Medicare Advantage 3

Special Enrollment Period:

2 month period that allows purchase of a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D Drug plan.

This special enrollment period allows you to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan and/or Part D Drug plan in the individual market for 2 months after your TRS-Care coverage ends. February 28, 2018

If you are still interested in learning more about alternative Medicare products available through TRTA’s partnership with Aetna, please read below:

  • TRTA has partnered with Aetna Healthcare to offer TRS-Care participants and spouses alternative health insurance options. To access the alternative options, use the following:
  • Visit the Aetna/TRTA offerings website online at www.healthspire.com/TRTA.
  • Call 1.888.299.0919 (TTY: 711) between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday to speak to a health plan expert who can guide you through your choices between the TRS plan or an Aetna plan.
  • This offering is available for TRTA members only. If you need to check or update your membership, please call TRTA at 1.800.880.1650.
  • Please note, if you are over 65 years old and decide to leave TRS-Care, you will not be able to return to the plan.

Additional Information about Participants Who Were Cancelled

TRS is aware that certain TRS-Care retirees who sent in requests to terminate their TRS-Care coverage in 2018 received a letter from SilverScript or Humana saying that they have been enrolled in a TRS-Care Medicare plan for 2018. These letters are incorrect—TRS apologizes for the confusion this has caused and understands your concerns.

Please be assured that if you already submitted a request to TRS to terminate TRS-Care, drop a dependent, or opt out of drug coverage, you do not have to take any action. Once Medicare terminates you from TRS-Care, you should receive a confirmation letter from Medicare saying you have been placed back in the Medicare plan you enrolled in outside TRS-Care. If you have not yet submitted a request to terminate your TRS-Care coverage, you must do so in order for TRS to terminate your TRS-Care coverage. Please contact TRS Health & Insurance Benefits at 1-888-237-6762 to request a termination form (700B).

TRS is closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the terminations are processed. If you would like TRS to confirm that the request to terminate TRS-Care has been processed, you can call TRS Health & Insurance Benefits at 1-888-237-6762.

Thank You

The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life.  If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

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

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