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01 Feb 2017
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Senate Finance Committee Continues Discussions on Funding Health Care

Today, February 1, 2017, the Senate Finance Committee met to continue its discussion about funding vital programs in the state budget, including the TRS-Care retiree health insurance plan.

The committee’s discussion picks up from a meeting held on January 24. You can read TRTA’s comprehensive overview of last week’s meeting by clicking here.

Funding for TRS-Care, the health insurance plan that covers more than 250,000 lives, is a major concern for public education retirees this session, as the program faces a $1.1 billion shortfall. During the previous legislative session in 2015, a similar shortfall of $768 million was covered by the state. It was understood at the time that the infusion of funds was a temporary fix for a program that needed long-term solutions.

As part of last week’s Senate Finance discussions, a work group of Senators on the committee was formed to review all state-vested health care plans. The following Senators will serve on the work group: Charles Schwertner, Chair; Joan HuffmanLois KolkhorstRobert NicholsCarlos UrestiKirk Watson; and John Whitmire. The work group will host its first public hearing this Friday, February 3.

While TRTA is ready to discuss options such as health care containment with the Senate work group to help find increased savings for TRS-Care, these efforts alone will not solve the problem. More appropriations are necessary to resolve the current shortfall, and keep the program sustainable for the future.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) asked members to complete a short survey last week in preparation for today’s Senate Finance meeting. Several thousand TRTA members responded, answering general questions about how a large increase in premiums would affect them financially and what changes in the program would be most acceptable to them.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jane Nelson said during the meeting that the state would need an additional $5.6 billion this session just to maintain ALL of its health care programs as they are, not accounting for the continuing rise in health care costs going forward. The work group will be responsible for trying to find ways to contain these costs, not just for TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare, but also programs run by the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) and others.

Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Executive Director Brian Guthrie spoke briefly as part of a panel of agency leaders, stating that TRS “relies heavily on third party administrators to find cost-saving opportunities.” He also said that most participants in TRS-Care live in rural areas of the state, making access to health care an issue for some.

Senator Charles Schwertner asked the agency heads if there had been a dramatic reconsideration of benefit and plan design at the board level, expressing concern that third party administrators were controlling too much of the decision-making process in those areas. He also pointed out that cost growth for some state health care plans is at 8.5 percent, higher than some federal plans.

As Chairman Nelson redirected the meeting, she stated that “ultimately, our goal is to improve quality and reduce costs,” reminding everyone in attendance that delving into issues such as the one being discussed by Senator Schwertner would be vital during the special health care work group meetings.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee has been invited to testify at Friday’s health care work group meeting. The meeting will begin at either 9:00 a.m. or upon adjournment of the Senate Finance Committee meeting in room E1.036 of the Texas Capitol extension building. Public testimony will not be allowed during this meeting. However, TRTA will be sure to provide a thorough update once the meeting adjourns. A live webcast of the meeting should be available from this website once it convenes this Friday.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

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

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27 Jan 2017
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Texas Retired Teachers Foundation Scholarship and Grant Applications Now Available!

Most of the members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know about and support our organization’s charitable arm, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF). The Foundation operates several wonderful programs for Texas educators of the past, present, and future, including scholarships and grants!

This year, TRTF is offering a great new opportunity for soon-to-be or recent college graduates who will be first-year teachers by the fall. The Beginning Teacher Scholarshipprovides funds to reimburse these future educators with certification test expenses or to help them purchase supplies for their very first classroom.

Do you have a grandchild who is about to graduate from college and begin teaching? If so, please share the Beginning Teacher Scholarship application with them! Applications may be downloaded from this link, or applicants may send a request to help@trtf.org. TRTF will award 10 $750 scholarships in March.

TRTF also offers Classroom Assistance Grants to current school teachers in Texas for innovative classroom projects, learning platforms and more! The program, now in its tenth year, has given more than $56,000 to teachers across the state. TRTF will award 15 $500 grants in March. Applications may be downloaded here.

Please help us spread the word about these programs to active and future educators! The deadline to submit applications for both programs is Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.

Beginning Teacher Scholarship Application

Classroom Assistance Grant Application

TRTF has a newly redesigned website, and still features uplifting stories and news about the educators you have helped through your generosity. During Foundation Month in November 2016, TRTA members donated more than $80,000 to support not only TRTF’s scholarships and grants, but also “A Helping Hand,” the Legacy Campaign, and the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund. Please click on the links to learn more about these programs.

TRTF appreciates your support!

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

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

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27 Jan 2017
0

Take Our TRS-Care Survey

The Texas Senate Finance Committee is set to hear testimony on costs surrounding the state-run teacher retirement health care program, TRS-Care, on Wednesday, February 1. The hearing will begin at 9:00 a.m.

The Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), Tim Lee, will be testifying on behalf of retirees.

If you are a TRS-Care participant, please complete this anonymous survey. With enough participation, TRTA will be able to provide the committee with more information about the impact of funding TRS-Care.

Please complete the survey by 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31. If you have any difficulty completing the survey, please contact Roy Varney, TRTA’s Multimedia Specialist, at roy@trta.org.

Connect With Your Legislators On Social Media

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) has created a special Senate budget workgroup to discuss rising health care costs for TRS, ERS, Medicaid and other state-vested health care systems. TRTA encourages all of our members to follow the committee members on social media. Here are links to connect with these legislators:

Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) – FacebookTwitter

Joan Huffman (R-Houston) – FacebookTwitter

Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) – FacebookTwitter

Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) – Twitter

Kirk Watson (D-Austin) – FacebookTwitter

John Whitmire (D-Houston) – Twitter

Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) is not on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

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

Read More