Senate Adds TRS-Care Funding to House Bill 21

On Monday, August 14, the Texas Senate met to discuss and vote upon the school finance bill, House Bill 21. As the Senate discussed the bill, several amendments were offered from the floor, including one pertaining to legislation that adds funding for the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.

To view the Senate session about school finance from August 14, please click here. Conversation about TRS-Care begins at about 1 hour and 42 minutes into the video. You can read the bill text and amendments online here (see page 38 for language about TRS-Care).

As our members know, two bills have been filed during the first called special session of the 85th Legislature to address additional funding for TRS-Care. Those two bills are Senate Bill 19 and House Bill 20. As legislation has moved quickly through the bill process during this thirty-day cycle, changes are also being made at a rapid pace!

Just yesterday, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) let members know that SB 19 continues to move through the House and will receive a vote today, Tuesday, August 15. While this action will still occur, the changes made last night to HB 21 in the Senate means HB 21 may now be the primary vehicle for moving TRS-Care legislation forward.

During discussion of HB 21 in the Senate, a floor amendment was adopted. Floor amendment 3 adds the language from SB 19 to HB 21. Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston), who met with Representative Trent Ashby from the House to finalize the details on the amendment, said the amendment adds $212 million in funding to TRS-Care to lower premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for plan participants.

This amendment provides that the funding for TRS-Care will come from deferred payments to Medicaid managed care organizations. Huffman confirmed that this method of finance would be a one-time infusion to provide relief for the next two years for retirees who use the health insurance program.

Huffman stated, however, that it is still her commitment to continue this level of funding for TRS-Care in the future. Our members may recall that the Texas House version of this legislation would use the Economic Stabilization Fund (also known as the Rainy Day fund) to pay for the additional appropriation.

As Huffman presented the amendment, she passionately stated that “every member on this floor was contacted by a retired teacher,” letting their legislators know that the new TRS-Care plans that will go into effect in January 2018 presented a very difficult financial burden for retirees. She added that the resulting communication with retirees, TRTA, and TRS, along with Governor Abbott’s call to add TRS-Care to the special session agenda, empowered legislators to find a solution.

Huffman added that legislators are willing to make a greater financial commitment to TRS-Care, saying “we believe that if we manage our finances wisely and we make this a priority, then we will have to make it work next session because we are prioritizing our retired teachers.”

According to Huffman, the amendment changes SB 19’s language “so that as many retirees as possible would get a benefit.” The amendment was adopted without objection.

As TRTA reported yesterday, discussions will continue today in the Texas House on SB 19. TRTA will continue to update you as legislation impacting TRS-Care continues moving through the legislative process.

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