11 Jul

Rallies Planned and Bills Filed: TRTA Readies for Special Session

The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) members have been communicating with fellow retirees, active teachers and their legislators back home since the 85thLegislative Session concluded on Memorial Day.

Many public education retirees in Texas are understandably concerned about how their fixed monthly income will support the impending changes to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. As our members may recall, TRS-Care faced a $1 billion shortfall this session. Without legislative action, this shortfall would have fallen entirely on the backs of retirees, causing premiums to spike to an estimated $1,200 to $1,500 per month.

Instead, House Bill 3976 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. This bill, though not a perfect solution to a program that continues to experience financial crises, was a necessary step as we move forward in keeping TRS-Care alive. Without its passage, TRS-Care would have closed within one to two years, leaving Texas educators without access to a health care option through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

However, the expected deductibles for the under age 65 group may put many retirees at risk for financial insolvency or force them to choose to between health care and daily staples needed to live.

Likewise, the lack of prescription drug coverage for the under age 65 group will make drugs unaffordable for many retirees. We have also heard concerns that the spousal and dependent costs for the over age 65 age group are untenable.

TRTA has heard from thousands of members across the state through Facebook, emails and phone calls. We hear your concerns and we want you to know that our work is not done!

The Texas Legislature begins a special session called for by the Governor on July 18. TRTA fully intends to ask Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus to increase funding for TRS-Care.

As TRTA continues working with legislators this week, please know an action alert will be released soon and we will be asking for participation from all of our members! We need all TRTA members—and any friends and active school personnel you know—to rally to the cause and ensure our collective voice is heard! While we are grateful that TRS-Care is no longer on a path to complete and total collapse, retirees simply cannot bear a significant financial burden to keep the program alive.

Rallies Planned at Texas Capitol and More

Many TRTA members, friends, and active educators are participating in or planning rallies throughout the state to ask for more support for TRS-Care and other education issues. We encourage our members to participate in these events and reach out to your Senators and Representatives and invite them to attend as well.

Here are some events TRTA is participating in or sponsoring over the next couple of weeks. If possible, make a plan to attend! (Click on the links to learn more about each event)

Bills Filed for Special Session

TRTA has been communicating with several legislators since session ended, and bills already have been filed to address retiree issues for the coming special session. TRTA anticipates that more bills will be filed after the July 18 start date.

Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) has filed two bills:

HB 76
Relating to a supplemental appropriation for Teacher Retirement System of Texas retiree health.

HB 80
Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

TRTA will keep members informed as the special session progresses!

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member of TRTA, please join today.

Be sure to connect with us via FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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29 Jun

ew TRTATV Episode: TRTA Interviews Top TRS Officials

Tim Lee, the Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), hosted a new episode of TRTATV yesterday. Originally, the episode was scheduled to appear on Facebook Live, but due to audio technical issues, the video could not be broadcast live.

Nonetheless, the episode has been recorded with the Executive Director of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Brian Guthrie and the Katrina Daniel, the TRS Chief Health Care Officer.

Guthrie and Daniel both stressed the importance of contacting TRS with any questions regarding changes to TRS-Care. TRS has drastically expanded its efforts in communicating about TRS-Care benefits.

TRS has launched a new website for members to learn about the health care program. Additionally, TRS has a hotline to call for any questions: 1-888-237-6762. Members can also contact Humana, the health care administrator to whom TRS has bid out the contract to manage TRS-Care, at this help line: 1-800-320-9566.

TRS is also scheduling meetings all across the state to ensure TRS-Care participants are informed about the changes made during the legislative session. When announced, TRTA will compile the list and post it.

TRS is also expected to announce a full list of “general maintenance” prescription drugs that will be covered under the health care plan for pre-65 retirees. Please remember, all of these changes go in to effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Special Message From Tim Lee

Many legislators are hearing from TRTA members and other TRS retirees about how painful the changes to the TRS-Care program will really be once they go into effect January 2018. Let’s just call it like it is, retirees are not happy.

While TRTA’s legislative team communicated this sentiment all session and many of our friends in the Legislature knew these were not easy options to vote on, legislators are getting a much clearer view of how the TRS-Care changes will put a tremendous financial strain on TRS retirees.

TRTA members know that the options we had to support this legislative session are best summed up as kept TRS-Care alive through some additional revenue, but deep cuts to TRS-Care benefits and increased premiums were also going to be made, or oppose any changes and watch TRS-Care enter death spiral and see it fall completely apart leaving retired school employees with extremely limited access to health care options.

TRTA supported the option to keep TRS-Care alive and to continue to fight for more funding for this critical program.

Now that elected officials have been home and are preparing to return to Austin for a special session, TRTA members want to know if anything else can be done to improve this situation before the program changes go into effect. While a special session is on the horizon, it seems the options are limited to help retirees. Limited, though, is not impossible and we urge our members to contact your elected officials BEFORE the special session starts on July 18, 2017.

The best way to make a difference is to call your legislators’ offices, both your House member and Senate member, and let them know that these changes are putting a tremendous financial burden on your fellow retirees and you. Let them know that there are many retirees who are unable to afford the new TRS-Care plan. Say it in a nice, but firm way, and ask them how they intend to make this better. Use the legislator hotline (1-888-674-3788) to contact your legislators’ offices today.

TRTA encourages members to communicate with their elected officials about the heartfelt factual presentation of reality. Legislators need to hear that when TRTA and retirees supported the TRS-Care solution in the regular session, it was to keep the program alive and ensure retirees access to healthcare, but more could have been done with more state financial support to TRS-Care.

Our health care plan needs more money, and legislators have to appropriate those dollars or retirees are stuck with the bills. But we can’t afford the cost of nonstop medical inflation. Something has to be done, and cutting retirees’ benefits is not the answer. The more legislators hear this message, the more they will prioritize your needs.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member of TRTA, please join today.

Be sure to connect with us via FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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28 Jun

TRTA Facebook Live Event Cancelled Due to Technical Difficulties, Interview with TRS Officials to Be Filmed and Shared

Due to several unforeseen technical and internet connectivity issues today (Wednesday, June 28), the Texas Retired Teachers Association’s scheduled Facebook Live event has been cancelled.

However, Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) officials Executive Director Brian Guthrie and Chief Health Care Officer Katrina Daniel have agreed to film a segment with TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee today.

The video of this interview will be made available to our members via our Facebook page, YouTube channel, and Inside Line e-newsletter as soon as possible. TRTA hopes to share this with you by the end of the work day.

We thank you for your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. If you are not yet a member of TRTA, please join today.

Be sure to connect with us via FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Read More