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01 Sep 2017
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TRS Board Adopts Legislative Changes to TRS-Care

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees met Friday, September 1, 2017 to approve the new TRS-Care retiree health insurance plans as laid out during the first called Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature. As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may recall, Governor Greg Abbott added TRS-Care to the special session call this summer after retirees across the state expressed serious concerns about high deductibles and premiums.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee provided public comment.

“At every level,” Lee said, “the leaders of the legislative branch (and executive branch) were involved in addressing retirees concerns.” Lee included thanking Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus. “The leaders in the state have not forgotten about the service educators have given to Texas.”

More importantly, Lee expressed thanks for the commitment hundreds of thousands of retired and active teachers put into contacting legislators about improving the plans. Lee thanked the trustees and TRS staff for sharing information in a timely fashion.

Lee lauded TRS for working to the Legislature to “provide the information we needed to help improve this situation.”

Lee also addressed the issue of return-to-work provisions. These provisions have been impacting more and more retirees, and they have very little tolerance for minor infractions. Nonetheless, these provisions sometimes penalize retirees who never intended to infringe upon the rules.

The TRS Board expressed its gratitude for the information, and reaffirmed its commitment to working with TRTA and stakeholders to find areas of improvement.

TRS Chief Health Care Officer Katrina Daniel made a presentation to the board members with the plan changes as reflected by the additional $212 million provided by the Legislature.

Daniel addressed the concerns retirees have had about medical providers accepting Medicare Advantage. Daniel stated that 96 percent of providers were willing to bill Humana for the Medicare Advantage plan.

“I’ve yet to see a provider that’s not willing to bill Humana,” Daniel said.

TRTA members have reported from all over the state that various doctors or providers have said they will not take the Humana Medicare Advantage program. Today’s discussion pointed out that many times the providers mistake TRS-Care plan as an “individual Medicare Advantage” plan. These providers are experiencing confusion about the far richer benefits provided through the TRS-Care “group” plan.

If your doctor says they do not accept Medicare Advantage, print this form and bring it to them. They can direct any questions they have to TRS.

Since TRS-Care is its own group, it can set different rules and provide richer benefits for retirees as well as special program components that help ensure provider acceptance. TRS is working on communications strategies to clarify these differences with providers. TRS is urging retirees to speak to providers who are claiming not to accept the TRS-Care coverage.

Daniel also detailed the communication plan TRS has crafted to reach out to retirees about the health care changes. She described the plan as “very robust.” As a part of this communication effort, TRS is providing retirees with an enrollment kit. These enrollment kits include a document that can be taken to health care providers explaining the payment situation.

“We’ve never undertaken a communications effort on this scale,” said Daniel.

TRTA shared the communications timeline provided by TRS in an Inside Line recently. This timeline establishes the plan TRS has made for informing plan participants about changes to TRS-Care and includes the start and end dates for the much-anticipated in-person retiree seminars that will begin in October.

The original plan was for TRS to have 88 meetings over 40 days, but those plans have since been derailed due to Hurricane Harvey. TRS has released the schedule for these seminars, and retirees will have the opportunity to RSVP online starting Sept. 11, 2017.

During his presentation, Tim Lee stressed the importance of releasing the retiree information seminar schedule as soon as possible, as many retirees who may have concerns about whether or not to stay with the plan may make an irrevocable decision without having enough information to make an educated choice. He also asked TRS to consider administrative and procedural accommodations for retirees as the changes to TRS-Care are drastic.

The TRS Board Meeting Book from September 1 includes the TRS-Care rates and benefits for FY 2018. (The charts you see below can also be viewed from the Tab 9 link).

The TRS website is also a great source of information about all current and future TRS-Care plans:

High Deductible Health Plan for Retirees under Age 65

HD Monthly Premium Rates

HD Plan Prescription Information for 2018

TRS has also provided TRTA with the list of approved generic drugs that will be covered under the TRS-Care high deductible health care plan for retirees under the age of 65. You can view that list by clicking here.

NOTICE: Current Plan Year (2017) Prescription Changes

Retirees under age 65 using the current TRS-Care plans have also been transitioned to a new prescription plan for the remainder of the current plan year (September 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017). CVS Caremark will now be the prescription drug provider. Learn more by clicking here. You can also click the links below to check on prescription costs for the remainder of 2017.

2017 Plan Year (Your current plan through Dec. 31, 2017)
TRS-Care 1 Plan – Check Drug Cost
TRS-Care 2 Plan – Check Drug Cost
TRS-Care 3 Plan – Check Drug Cost

New Medicare Advantage Plan for Retirees Age 65 and Older

New Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

  • Prescription drug benefits for non-Medicare participants will be integrated with medical benefits and subject to the plan’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximums.
  • Prescription drug benefits for Medicare participants will be provided through a Medicare Part D plan.
  • Please note, the above chart does not mention that the mail order cost refers to a 3-month supply. (Click this link to learn more).
  • Unlike the under age 65 prescription plan, the new provider, CVS Caremark SilverScripts, will not take over until January 1, 2018.

What If I Can Not Afford Dependent Premiums?

Medicare eligible retirees and dependents thinking about leaving TRS-Care need to be cautious. If you leave TRS-Care, TRS may not let you re-enroll.

Please remember, your benefits do not change until Jan. 1, 2018. This extra time will allow you to consider all of your options. TRS is just starting the education process.

The TRS Medicare Advantage plan is a group plan, which contains rich benefits. The plan cannot be replicated in the individual market.

However, many TRTA members have expressed that the TRS-Care plan is unaffordable. If you are looking to the individual market as an alternative to TRS-Care, know that TRTA has heard your concerns.

We are studying the individual Medicare market, and we are working with potential vendors to find alternative plans. We will make an announcement about these options with our members this fall.

What Do These Plan Changes Mean for the Future of TRS-Care?

While the full results of these changes remain to be seen, it is expected that TRS-Care will still experience a revenue shortfall by the next biennium. Benefit and premium changes resulting from the special session of the Legislature are projected to increase the FY2021 shortfall by $212 million with no further rate and benefit adjustments by the TRS board for the 2019 plan year.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

If you know a retiree who is not yet a member of TRTA, please encourage them to join.

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

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31 Aug 2017
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A Special Message from TRTA and TRTF

Dear members and friends of TRTA and TRTF,

We would like to take this opportunity to share our heartfelt concern for all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Many people, including members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and friends in the active educator community, continue to face dire circumstances or struggle to find the next foot forward. Their neighbors and friends are also struggling. Entire communities will spend months or even years recovering from the devastation left in Harvey’s wake.

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is suffering in one way or another. Perhaps you do not reside in the coastal areas of the state, but have family members who do. We know your hearts are hurting for your fellow Texans, and our hearts are hurting as well.

Despite this hurt, there is a great sense of empathy and generosity within the education community. We have heard so many wonderful stories about Texans from all across the state traveling to Corpus Christi or Houston or Port Aransas or Rockport to volunteer to help rescue families, work in shelters or donate food and clothes. The Houston Independent School District will provide three free meals a day to all students for the school year.

Our TRTA staff members today provided donations of baby items, kitchen supplies and more to Seton, a tenant of the TRTA building in Austin, so that doctors who work at the clinic can personally deliver the items tonight.

Texans, and TRTA members especially, are strong, resilient and compassionate. This week alone, TRTA members and friends have donated more than $8,000 to the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) to provide financial relief to retirees and pre-retirees who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Thank you so much for reaching into your hearts and sharing your donations to help your fellow retirees and active teachers. TRTF will continue to keep you updated as aid is provided to those in need.

We also want our members to know that American Hearing Benefits, one of TRTA’s endorsed product vendors, is extending the following to TRTA members – if you have had a Starkey hearing aid lost or damaged in the Hurricane, you can have it replaced by calling 888.200.5701.

Please reach out to TRTA and TRTF if you or someone you know is need of emergency assistance as a result of the storm. You can reach us at 1.800.880.1650. Thank you again for being a member of TRTA and supporting the education community.

Sincerely,

Nancy Byler Jamie Larson Tim Lee
TRTA President TRTF President TRTA Executive Director

TRS Releases Health Insurance Plan Rollout Schedule

TRTA is preparing to attend tomorrow’s Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees meeting, and has some valuable information to share with members!

The TRS Board of Trustees Board Meeting Book includes the timeline of events for the rollout of the new TRS-Care plans that go into effect on January 1, 2018. This communications timeline will help plan participants understand how the process will unfold over the next few months. Look to Tab 9 in the book for additional details.

TRS Communications Timeline

September

  • Invitations to retiree information sessions go out:
  • 88 sessions over 40+ days
  • Entire 270,000 retiree population invited
  • Single RSVP process for entire population
  • All TRS-Care vendors will participate: – Humana – CVS Caremark/SilverScript – Aetna
  • Set agenda with presentations for participants with and without Medicare
  • Webinars in November for those who are unable to attend in person
  • TRS releases “The Pulse” publication – announces information sessions, reminder about extended plan year for Standard plan

October

  • Retiree information sessions begin Oct. 9
  • TRS-Care Medicare Rx announcement letter from SilverScript
  • Plan guides with premium and benefit information
  • TRS releases “The Pulse” publication – includes info session reminder, SilverScript contact info and website

November

  • In-person retiree information sessions end Nov. 2
  • Week of webinars begins Nov. 6
  • ID cards begin to go out
  • TRS releases “The Pulse” publication – getting ready for Jan. 1

December

  • ID cards continue to go out
  • TRS releases “The Pulse” publication – getting ready for Jan. 1

January 2018

  • NEW PLAN YEAR for all TRS-Care participants starts Jan. 1, 2018

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

If you know a retiree who is not yet a member of TRTA, please encourage them to join.

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

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30 Aug 2017
0

TRS Board to Meet Friday, TRTF Receives Thousands in Donations for Hurricane Victims

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has reported on several resources available to public education retirees in Texas as they grapple with the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Unfortunately, an error was made when reporting information about prescriptions for participants in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) health care plans. The phone number listed for Express Scripts was missing a digit. Below please find the correct phone numbers for pharmacy benefit providers of TRS health care plans.

  • Active employees: CVS Caremark 1-800-222-9205
  • Retirees: Express Scripts 1-877-680-4881

As a reminder, both CVS Caremark and Express Scripts have activated processes that allow one-time emergency refills of medications for plan participants in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

We also want to share a resource for affected members who need to file insurance claims as a result of the storm: http://www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/storms/helpafterharvey.html. The information about whether or not to begin the process of filing insurance claims before or after Sept. 1, 2017 has been conflicting. A new state law, HB 1774, may make it more difficult to file lawsuits against insurance companies, and that law will go into effect Sept. 1, 2017.

TRS Board to Meet Friday, September 1 at 9:00 a.m.

The TRS Board of Trustees will hold a meeting this Friday, Sept. 1 to discuss implementing the changes made by the Texas Legislature to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. It is expected that the Board will approve the changes as recommended by the Legislature.

As our members may recall, as a result of additional funding being provided by the Legislature during the recent summer special session, deductibles and premiums for retirees in the TRS-Care plans will be reduced from the amounts approved during the regular legislative session. You can read about the projected changes by clicking here.

A link to view the meeting online via webcast will become available on this webpageon Friday morning at approximately 9:00 a.m. You can view the meeting book online here. TRTA will provide a thorough update to members after the board meeting.

TRS has also provided TRTA with the list of approved generic drugs that will be covered under the TRS-Care high deductible health care plan for retirees under the age of 65. You can view that list by clicking here.

TRTF Raises Nearly $4,000 for Hurricane Victims

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF), the charitable arm of TRTA, is grateful to the many members and friends who have donated to help provide immediate and long-term financial assistance to public education retirees and active educators impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Because of your generosity, TRTF already has raised nearly $4,000!

As a result of this catastrophic storm, many TRS annuitants will experience significant damage to their homes and vehicles and may even struggle to meet daily needs. Teachers may be starting the school year without classroom supplies for their students or may have lost valuable education resources.

TRTF is asking members to please consider making a donation to the Foundation. Your donation could help provide someone in need with food and water, pay for a hotel stay, assist with paying for homeowner’s insurance deductibles, or repair damage to homes, vehicles, or classrooms.

To make a donation online, please click here. Donations can also be mailed to TRTF, 313 E. 12th Street Ste. 220, Austin, TX 78701. Your unrestricted donation means TRTF can direct the funds to go where they will do the most good and meet the most need.

If you or someone you know is in need of emergency financial assistance as a result of Hurricane Harvey, please send your request to help@trtf.org or call 1.800.880.1650 and leave your name and mailing address with Associate Director Cindee Sharp.

If you know friends or family who may be interested in donating to TRTF to help educators, please forward this email to them. TRTF will focus relief efforts on retired and active school employees and the public education community.

Thank you again for your heartfelt and quick response to our call for donations.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

If you know a retiree who is not yet a member of TRTA, please encourage them to join.

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

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