Today, Saturday, July 22, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss Senate Bill 19. The bill was filed for the first called special session of the 85th Legislature by Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound) and co-authored by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston).
SB 19 relates to bonuses and salaries for public school classroom teachers and state assistance for the Texas Public School Employees Group Insurance Program, including TRS-Care. To read the full text of the bill, please click here.
SB 19 lays out the Texas Senate’s plan for providing additional revenue to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. The Senate’s plan to address TRS-Care funding includes as much as $212 million in additional funding that will be used to lower deductibles for pre-65 TRS retirees from $3,000 to $1,500 for individuals and from $6000 to $3000 for families.
The plan will also help reduce premiums for retirees age 65 and older by $25. Medicare retiree only premium would go from $146 to $121. Retiree plus spouse premiums would go from $590 to $565. Retiree plus child(ren) premiums would go from $504 to $479. Retiree plus family premiums would go from $1106 to $1081.
Please note, TRTA continues to work with major carriers to find Medicare supplement solutions at the lowest cost possible. As the largest retired teacher organization in the nation, we partner with more than 30 other associations around the country representing retired school employees and other public servants. TRTA will use its influence to develop and offer an alternative Medicare supplement for its members and their dependents. As soon as more information becomes available about these options, TRTA will share them.
SB 19 would also provide assistance to retirees who have adult incapacitated children with disabilities, reducing premiums by $200 per month. Non-Medicare retiree plus child premiums would go from $433 to $233, Non-Medicare retiree plus family would go from $1074 to $874, Medicare retiree plus child would go from $504 to $304, and Medicare retiree plus family would go from $1106 to $906. SB 19 would also reduce the maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) for retirees with adult disabled children from $6650/$13,300 to $3000/$6000.
Once a Non-Medicare retiree reaches the annual deductible in the 2018 standard plan, the plan will pay 80% of eligible in-network medical and prescription expenses, and once they reach the MOOP the plan pays %100 of eligible in-network medical and prescription expenses.
Preventive services such as annual physicals, cancer screenings, immunizations and flu shots are available at no cost to retirees. HB 3976, passed during the regular 85thLegislative Session, also covers preventative maintenance generic drugs at no cost to Non-Medicare retirees in the HD plan.
In a video shared by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick yesterday, he stated that this Senate plan will make the additional funding from SB 19 permanent in the next legislative session. If this additional funding becomes part of the ongoing budget strategy for TRS-Care, it will have a very positive long-term impact for this vital program.
Senator Kirk Watson (D – Austin) and other Senators serving on the committee pointed out during today’s hearing that funding for TRS-Care must be tied to a funding source in order for the changes laid out in SB 19 to become permanent. In other words, the state contribution rate will need to be increased if this funding is to be added to the base budget for TRS-Care during the next regular legislative session. Right now, we have a commitment from the Senate to make this permanent funding a priority. TRTA believes Chairman Jane Nelson is intent on doing that.
More Details to Come Soon
Tim Lee, Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), testified during today’s hearing, expressing the need for retirees living on average fixed annuities of $2000 or less per month to have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Many valuable remarks were made by state Senators today that TRTA will share in a more extended update next week.
As our members may know, multiple bills have been filed this special session to address TRS-Care funding and other benefit adjustments for Texas public education retirees. You can view a list of those bills by clicking here. As our members also know, it is vital that agreement between both bodies of the Legislature be found in order for this additional help to be received.
Texas House members have also proposed several options for providing additional funding for TRS-Care. TRTA urges the Legislature to work collectively to ensure that the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program receives additional funding and retirees receive some financial relief.
Today’s hearing was the first step of many more to come during this fast-paced and productive special session. Please stay tuned daily to TRTA for any urgent updates about issues impacting your retirement benefits during the special session.
Thank you for your membership to TRTA! TRTA has more than 82,000 members, but there are more than 350,000 TRS retirees. That means hundreds of thousands of TRS retirees are not involved in the largest retiree organization advocating for their TRS benefits.
To improve funding for TRS-Care, we need as many retirees as possible to join TRTA and stand with us!
It is vital that you join TRTA today! If you already are a member, please ask your fellow retirees to join. Many retirees are still unaware of the impending TRS-Care changes! Let’s all work together to improve retirement benefits for current and future retirees.