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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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09 Oct
0

SNEAK PEEK of The VOICE: Foundation Month is Soon!

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) is changing lives every day! November has been designated as Foundation Month, a time to honor and support the Texas Retired Teacher Association’s (TRTA) charitable giving partner.

TRTF was founded in 1988 to raise funds to build the permanent home of TRTA in downtown Austin, Texas. The organization began offering grants to classroom teachers and scholarships to future educators in 2000.

Since that time, TRTF has given out more than $200,000 to educators of the past, present and future!

“A Helping Hand”

$80,000 has contributed to the “A Helping Hand” program for retirees experiencing critical emergencies. Because of the generosity of TRTA’s members and friends, the Foundation has been able to assist 81 individuals with a variety of needs, including funds for home repairs, dental work, eyeglasses, medical alert services, property taxes and more!

TRTF also provided $41,000 in relief funds to retired and active educators in West, Texas after the fertilizer plant explosion in April 2013.

Recently, TRTF has received several applications for members who experienced damage to their homes as a result of the Memorial Day floods. TRTF accepts applications for assistance year-round. If you or someone you know needs a helping hand, please contact us at help@trtf.org or 1.800.880.1650. All applications are kept confidential.

Classroom Assistance Grants


Randy Mayer (left) with Principal Sylvia Villejo (right) receiving a $500 classroom assistance grant.

To date, TRTF has awarded more than $41,000 in classroom assistance grants to schoolteachers in Texas for various projects and learning initiatives.

Those projects include an aquaponics greenhouse being developed by Buda ISD teacher Randy Mayer and his students at the Impact Center. His $500 from TRTF was matched by the school district, allowing him to purchase much-needed tools such as shovels, seeds and a wheelbarrow.

You’ll be able to watch a video later this month featuring Mr. Mayer and his students building the greenhouse and working in their school garden.

Student Scholarships


Kelsey Faykus discuss her passion for teaching in an upcoming TRTF video.

Since 2008, the Foundation has given $45,000 in scholarships to students pursuing degrees in education. This includes Ms. Kelsey Faykus, a student attending Southwestern University in Georgetown. While she majors in education, she also plays on the school basketball team. She credits Jimmy Michna, an at-large member of TRTA, with inspiring her to pursue a teaching career.

TRTF had the opportunity to visit with Kelsey on campus earlier this year and conduct a video interview with her. Stay tuned to the Inside Line later this month to watch this inspiring video as well as many others!

You can read more about TRTF’s 2015 Classroom Assistance Grant and Student Scholarship recipients by clicking here.

The Legacy Campaign

The Legacy Campaign promotes a positive image of public education in Texas and supports the Texas Teacher of the Year program. TRTF’s Legacy Campaign videos are moving and educational. Learn more about the organization by watching these videos.

This program also serves as a way to develop educational resources that explain the significance of the defined benefit pension plan and the importance of maintaining the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) for all current and future Texas public education retirees.

The VOICE is Arriving Soon! Please Consider Donating Today!

Soon, you will be receiving the third quarter issue of The VOICE in your mailbox! Included in The VOICE is the Foundation’s Annual Appeal letter asking for donations to support its programs for 2016.

You can get a sneak peek of The VOICE by clicking here! Expect your issue to arrive in the mail in late October.

Please consider making a donation to help TRTF reach its fundraising goal of $100,000.

The VOICE is saving TRTF’s annual appeal campaign several thousand dollars in printing and postage costs. These funds are instead going towards TRTF’s valuable programs.

To donate to TRTF online, please visit this link. You can also donate over the phone by calling 1.800.880.1650.

Please also stay tuned to the Inside Line throughout October and November as we continue to promote TRTF’s initiatives. We will feature several videos of and articles about recipients of the Foundation’s charitable programs.

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and a supporter of TRTF. Your generosity truly makes a difference in the lives of educators of the past, present and future. Together, we are changing lives every day!

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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07 Oct
0

TRS-Care Town Hall Meeting Update

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) will host a Town Hall Meeting on 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.

We know that not everyone can come to Austin for this meeting. TRS is working on other solutions for plan participants to be a part of the meetings, but not have to drive into downtown Austin. Some of these options may include a live webcast, as well as social media integration through websites like Twitter. TRTA will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Please mark your calendars now and begin making your travel plans if you plan to attend the meeting in person. The TRS location may have limited seating, so checking in advance with TRTA will be a big help as we all make plans for this special event.

Meeting Location and Preliminary Agenda

Though the details of the meeting are still being finalized, the meeting location has been determined and a preliminary agenda has been created.

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.

Several topics of discussion will be reviewed and at times, questions from the public will be welcomed. As the meeting date draws nearer, TRTA will provide our readers with facts and figures about TRS-Care, as well as suggestions on how you can provide information that may help solve the challenges facing TRS-Care.

Preliminary 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 p.m.-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 appropriation of $768 million to keep TRS-Care solvent was just one step the Legislature took in 2015. 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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