Blog

20 Oct
0

TRS-Care Town Hall Meeting This Week: Thursday, October 22!

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) will host a Town Hall Meeting this Thursday October 22, 2015 to discuss the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. As you may have read in a recent edition of the Inside Line, the next and most important step in the TRS-Care funding crisis is to find real, long-term solutions and protect the program’s participants.

The TRS-Care Town Hall Meeting is vital to this discussion! Your participation is necessary, and we encourage members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and their fellow retirees and pre-retirees to attend.

If you are planning to attend the meeting in person, or if several members from your local unit are attending, please send us a quick email at TRTA to let us know! A headcount will give us an opportunity to plan ahead for providing refreshments.

Webcast Information

We know that not everyone can come to Austin for this meeting. TRS will webcast the meeting live on Thursday from this link. This feature which will also enable viewers to submit questions and comments online. Please note, this link will not be live until Thursday at approximately 8:00 a.m.

If you are not able to drive into downtown Austin this Thursday, please view and participate in the meeting using the link above.

Meeting Location, Parking Information and Agenda

The meeting will be held in the cafeteria on the 4th floor of the TRS headquarters building at 1000 Red River Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The meeting will begin at 8:00 a.m., and will adjourn at approximately 4:00 p.m.

Limited parking is available in the TRS lot. You may consider parking in the state parking garage located a block north of TRS at Trinity and 12th Streets. This is the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage (1201 San Jacinto between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th Streets). Parking is free for the first two hours and $1.00 for each half hour thereafter (maximum daily charge: $10.00). There is also metered street parking near TRS on Red River Street.

Several topics of discussion will be reviewed during the daylong meeting. At times, questions from the public will be welcomed.

Schedule of Events (subject to change)

8:00-8:30 a.m. Opening Comments

9:00-9:15 a.m. Meeting Overview (expectations for the day will be set)

9:15-10:15 a.m. Healthcare Environment Panel Discussion

10:15-10:30 a.m. Board Q&A

10:30-11:30 a.m. Strategies for Cost Containment and Consumerism Panel Discussion

11:30-11:45 a.m. Board Q&A

11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Working Lunch – Interactive Question and Answer Period

12:30-1:15 p.m. TRS-Care Panel Discussion

1:15-1:30 p.m. Board Q&A

1:30-2:15 p.m. TRS-ActiveCare Panel Discussion

2:15-2:30 p.m. Board Q&A

2:30-3:15 p.m. Association Panel Discussion

3:15-3:45 p.m. Interactive Question and Answer Period

3:45-4:00 p.m. Looking Forward, Closing Comments

Town Hall Meeting Significance

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and its vigilant, dedicated members have worked to preserve TRS-Care for 13 years. The health insurance program is vital to nearly 250,000 participants, and has proven to be successful and well-liked. TRS-Care offers quality health care at a reasonable cost, and is necessary for our public education retirees’ financial security.

Our friends in the Texas Legislature worked with TRTA during the 84th Legislative Session to protect TRS-Care from an impending shortfall of $768 million. The funding approved by our Senators and Representatives meant that TRS-Care participants would not have to face crippling premium increases or worry about losing their coverage.

The $768 million appropriation was just one step the 2015 Texas Legislature took in preserving TRS-Care. They also passed a bill to create an interim study group tasked to discuss TRS-Care. The TRS-Care Town Hall Meeting and legislative study group seek to find long-term solutions to the TRS-Care funding shortfalls and provide a stable health care coverage program for retirees.

Though we won one battle in securing additional funding for TRS-Care in 2015, the next and most important step is to participate in finding solutions to the program’s funding instability. The process for discussing these long-term solutions begins now!

We hope are you are able to participate in the TRS-Care Town Hall Meeting on October 22, either in person or online. Please remember that now is the time for our members to get involved and be as vocal as possible and that YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

With more than a year to go before the next regular legislative session, TRTA members can feel assured that this will not be the only meeting they may have a chance to attend or participate in. We have a long road ahead, and this is a great start to understanding the issues and potential solutions being considered to help TRS-Care. Your participation will play a critical role in the outcome for our retiree health care program.

Please Share This Information

If you are a local unit or district leader, please share this information with your fellow retirees at your fall meetings and through email and phone trees! If you know of members who are not receiving the Inside Line, please show them how simple and quick it is to sign up!

Let’s not exclude our friends who are still actively teaching and working in our public schools. Please encourage all active school employees to receive the Inside Line. We are all in this together, and our ability to protect TRS-Care today will ensure those pre-retirees that their benefits are safe as well.

We must spread the word and get retirees and pre-retirees motivated and inspired to be part of the solution! Our friends in the active community are working on this vital issue as well. We know that by sharing information and getting everyone involved, we can solve any problem that may impact the retirement security of our current and future TRS retirees.

Thank You

Your support helped us receive $768 million towards TRS-Care during the 84th Texas Legislative Session, but there is still more work to be done. Protecting TRS-Care is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your help can make all of the difference. Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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16 Oct
0

TRTA Issues Update: Medicare Part B Bills Filed, Texas House Names TRS-Care Interim Committee Members

Click here to send an email to your Congressman and help TRTA keep your premiums from increasing!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has been very busy this week gathering information about the issues that matter most to you. We know you are busy and we appreciate the time you put in to helping TRTA, its members and the programs we all value.

Medicare Part B Premiums Update: New Bills Filed!

Medicare Part B premiums are projected to increase by 52 percent in 2016. Thirty percent of Medicare Part B participants will be responsible for shouldering the increase if Congress does not take action.

Legislation addressing this issue has been filed. TRTA supports the following bills. Express your support for these bills by calling your Senator and Representative today!

Tell your Representative to support H.R. 3696 (Titus, NV), a new bill: “to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to prevent an increase in the Medicare part B premium and deductible in 2016.”

Tell your Senators to support S. 2148 (Wyden, OR) which is the Senate version of the House bill.

These are new bills, and your Representative and Senator may not have heard about them yet.

See below for a full list of the Texas Congressional Delegation, including their phone numbers.

We have limited time to address this issue. EVERYONE interested in trying to protect their Medicare Part B premiums needs to CALL their Congressmen and ask them to keep their premiums from skyrocketing by 52 percent today!

Please share this email with your friends, family and other retirees you may know in Texas or across the country. Share this information on Facebook and encourage people to pay attention to the proposed Medicare B premium increase.

It is time to make phone calls and get our members and friends activated!!

Video Update

Watch TRTA’s Executive Director, Tim Lee, discuss the latest news about Medicare Part B and TRS-Care.

Texas House Names Members for TRS-Care Interim Study

On Monday, October 12, 2015, Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus named the members of the TRS-Care legislative interim study committee. Those members are:

These members have all developed a strong relationship with the Texas school employee retirees in their districts. Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van) is well-known by many of our TRTA members, as he is presently serving as the Texas House Pensions Committee Chairman. He also attended the TRTA 62nd Annual Convention this past April and provided considerable insight into the 84th Texas Legislative Session.

Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) served as the House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman on Education. Representative Ashby was instrumental in helping TRS-Care receive the $768 million to protect TRS retirees’ health care premiums this last session. We also were fortunate to see Representative Ashby at the TRTA Annual Convention in April, and we look forward to working with him on this committee.

Representative Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) is a member of the Texas House Pensions Committee and has a great working relationship with the TRTA local units in his district. As a member of the House Pensions Committee, Representative Rodriguez has met numerous times with TRTA to discuss pension and health care issues.

As of today, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has not yet named the Senate members to the TRS-Care interim study group. When all members are named, TRTA will provide information about when the group will begin meeting.

Thank You

Protecting your health care benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation can make all of the difference. Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Texas Congressional Delegation Phone Numbers

To determine who your Congressmen are, please visit this link.

Texas U.S. Senators

Name Party Phone
Ted Cruz R 202-224-5922
John Cornyn R 202-224-2934

 

Texas U.S. Representatives

District
Name
Party
Phone
1
R
202-225-3035
2
R
202-225-6565
3
R
202-225-4201
4
R
202-225-6673
5
R
202-225-3484
6
R
202-225-2002
7
R
202-225-2571
8
R
202-225-4901
9
D
202-225-7508
10
R
202-225-2401
11
R
202-225-3605
12
R
202-225-5071
13
R
202-225-3706
14
R
202-225-2831
15
D
202-225-2531
16
D
202-225-4831
17
R
202-225-6105
18
D
202-225-3816
19
R
202-225-4005
20
D
202-225-3236
21
R
202-225-4236
22
R
202-225-5951
23
R
202-225-4511
24
R
202-225-6605
25
R
202-225-9896
26
R
202-225-7772
27
R
202-225-7742
28
D
202-225-1640
29
D
202-225-1688
30
D
202-225-8885
31
R
202-225-3864
32
R
202-225-2231
33
D
202-225-9897
34
D
202-225-9901
35
D
202-225-4865
36
R
202-225-1555

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12 Oct
0

TRTA Member ALERT: Medicare B Premiums Set to Increase By More Than 50 Percent!

Click here to send an email to your Congressman and help TRTA keep your premiums from increasing!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has received several phone calls and emails regarding the recent announcement that Medicare Part B premiums may increase in 2016. While the Wall Street Journal has reported that 70 to 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will see no change from the standard $104.90 monthly rate, it is important for our members who do not receive Social Security benefits to be aware of how they may be impacted.

Medicare Part B participants who do not receive Social Security could see their premiums increase from the current $104.90 monthly rate to approximately $159.30. The best way to avoid this significant, unfair increase is to CALL your Congressman.

Send an email to your Congressmen TODAY asking for their help using this link and call them directly using the phone numbers provided at the bottom of this email! To determine who your Congressmen are, please visit this link.

Tell your Congressman that Texas public education retirees should not have to subsidize the premiums of the other 70 percent of Medicare Part B enrollees across the nation!

Will I Be Impacted?
I am Medicare Part B with Social Security
I am Medicare Part B without Social Security
I am Medicare Advantage
You will not be impacted.
Your monthly premiums could increase by more than $50. Call your Congressman today!
Your monthly premiums could increase! Call your Congressman today!

Why is This Happening and What is “Hold Harmless?”

Social Security recipients who are on Medicare must, according to law, have their Part B premiums withheld from their monthly Social Security payments. (This is true for the majority of Medicare Part B participants, but not for those who do not receive Social Security at all. Many public pensioners, including Texas retired public education employees, pay for Medicare Part B out-of-pocket).

The “hold harmless” provision is a rule that Social Security benefits cannot decline for beneficiaries from one year to the next. (This applies to married couples earning less than $170,000 modified adjusted gross income or individuals earning less than $85,000).

In most years in the month of October, Social Security announces a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for the following year for beneficiaries. When a COLA is announced, Medicare can boost Part B premiums, resulting in more money being deducted from people’s COLA-adjusted monthly Social Security benefits, essentially preventing the loss of income brought on by the premium increase.

However, when no COLA is projected (as is the case for 2016), lower income Medicare beneficiaries who receive Social Security (about 70 percent of all beneficiaries) cannot be required to pay any premium increases at all. They are held harmless because their income will not increase for the coming year.

Unfortunately, the projected increases in Medicare Part B expenses for 2016 are so high that Medicare does not expect to be able to absorb the extra costs. By law, Medicare must collect about 25 percent of Part B expenses from beneficiaries. Because Medicare cannot collect those funds from the 70 percent of beneficiaries who are held harmless, it must collect the 25 percent ratio from beneficiaries who are notheld harmless.

Who is Not Held Harmless?

According to the information we have today, those not held harmless from this increase in Medicare B are:

  • New enrollees to Medicare in 2016;
  • People with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) above $85,000 ($170,000 on joint tax returns);
  • Those who pay their Medicare Part B premiums out-of-pocket, either because they haven’t yet begun receiving Social Security benefits or will never receive Social Security benefits.

Ninety-five percent of Texas public school employees do not pay into the federal Social Security program! This means potentially hundreds of thousands of TRS Texas retirees could be impacted by this premium increase! (People with low incomes who have their premiums paid by their state are also not held harmless, but this means state budgets would take the financial hit).

How Much Could Medicare Part B Premiums Increase?

The prediction is that Medicare Part B participants who are not held harmless would pay 52 percent more in Part B premiums in 2016. New enrollees and Medicare beneficiaries who aren’t on Social Security — and who do not have high incomes — would no longer pay $104.90 per month in 2016 but $159.30.

People in the higher income premium groups would have similar percentage hikes, from a range of $146.90 to $335.70 a month in 2015 to a range of $223 to $509.80 in 2016.

If all Medicare beneficiaries were treated equally, regardless of income or the hold harmless provision, the monthly premium would be $120.79.

Of note for Medicare Advantage participants: If you are participating in the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage program, the Medicare B premium increases will hit you as well.

What Can Be Done?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is not able to fix this issue on its own, and must rely upon Congress to take action.

This potential premium increase affects public sector retirees disproportionately!Much like the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), it is unfair.

Now is the time for our members to reach out to their Congressional members and tell them that Texas public education retirees should not have to subsidize the premiums of the other 70 percent of Medicare Part B enrollees across the nation!

We need your help reaching out to your Texas Congressional members today!

Find your Congressman’s phone number at the bottom of this email and call them. Send your Congressman an email here. To determine who your Congressmen are, please visit this link.

As this is an issue that has occurred in the past (in 2010 and 2011), Congress should fix the problem permanently. Legislation was created in 2009 to address this issue (H.R. 3631), but failed to receive a vote in the Senate despite passing the House by a vote of 406 to 18.

Let’s tell our Congressmen to address this issue NOW.

Legislation must be filed and passed this year to prevent exorbitant Medicare Part B premium increases for people who do not receive Social Security!

Thank You

Protecting your health care benefits is TRTA’s top priority, and your participation can make all of the difference. Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Texas Congressional Delegation Phone Numbers

To determine who your Congressmen are, please visit this link.

Texas U.S. Senators

Name Party Phone
Ted Cruz R 202-224-5922
John Cornyn R 202-224-2934

 

Texas U.S. Representatives

District
Name
Party
Phone
1
R
202-225-3035
2
R
202-225-6565
3
R
202-225-4201
4
R
202-225-6673
5
R
202-225-3484
6
R
202-225-2002
7
R
202-225-2571
8
R
202-225-4901
9
D
202-225-7508
10
R
202-225-2401
11
R
202-225-3605
12
R
202-225-5071
13
R
202-225-3706
14
R
202-225-2831
15
D
202-225-2531
16
D
202-225-4831
17
R
202-225-6105
18
D
202-225-3816
19
R
202-225-4005
20
D
202-225-3236
21
R
202-225-4236
22
R
202-225-5951
23
R
202-225-4511
24
R
202-225-6605
25
R
202-225-9896
26
R
202-225-7772
27
R
202-225-7742
28
D
202-225-1640
29
D
202-225-1688
30
D
202-225-8885
31
R
202-225-3864
32
R
202-225-2231
33
D
202-225-9897
34
D
202-225-9901
35
D
202-225-4865
36
R
202-225-1555

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