The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees met today, July 29, to discuss TRS-Care and budget requests that will be made to the Texas Legislature later this summer.
TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee provided impassioned public comment, approaching the trustees with heartfelt concern about the looming TRS-Care budget crisis.
Lee stressed that the participants in the retiree health insurance program pay $1.4 billion in revenue to sustain the program annually (35 percent of the program’s total revenue), while the state pays $300 million and school districts pay $150 million per year approximately. The health care plan covers 260,000 lives, and provides a vital, quality retirement benefit.
Lee also expressed that TRTA members are concerned about the $40 million in changes to TRS-Care that were approved by the TRS Board of Trustees during their June meeting. TRS is still working to enact those changes and develop a frequently asked questions list. In the meantime, our members may learn more about these changes by clicking here. Those changes will go into effect this September.
Lee communicated a deep desire for legislators, stakeholders and TRS to come to the table as quickly as possible to address the TRS-Care crisis.
A joint select committee on TRS-Care was established at the end of the 84th Legislative Session. The legislative members named to this group are: Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston) – Co-Chair, Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); and Representatives Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – Co-Chair, Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio).
On March 30, the committee held its first hearing to discuss TRS-Care, which TRTA reviewed in the Inside Line. During the meeting, each legislator was divided on how to approach the conversation of solving the TRS-Care crisis.
Though no additional public meetings of the select committee have been held yet, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie reassured all those listening that the committee members have been requesting information and “vetting and re-vetting” the potential solutions presented by Mr. Guthrie at the March 30 meeting.
While TRTA and other stakeholder groups do not know what direction the legislative study group intends to take at this time, the study group plans to present a comprehensive report on what they deem a correct course of action, and legislation will likely be filed that provides wide-ranging authority to the TRS Board of Trustees to make changes based on legislative direction. As Tim Lee stated, “we want to solve problems, that’s what we do, we work together.”
The TRS Board of Trustees and Executive Director Guthrie have your best interests as your fiduciaries at heart. Chairman David Kelly remarked, “we understand the crisis . . . and empathize with what TRTA members are going through.”
While progress on resolving the funding issues with TRS-Care may seem slow at times, please know that there are many groups—and many caring people—who are working on TRS-Care every day. TRTA’s visits to the Texas Capitol are not restricted to the 140-day session; in fact, we are visiting legislators and their staff members every week, asking for their support of your top priorities: affordable, quality health care, and protection of your TRS defined benefit plan.
What can TRTA members do to protect their vital health care benefits?
Please encourage others to join TRTA. Our membership exceeds 81,000, but there are more than 260,000 people in TRS-Care! If all 260,000 participants united with TRTA, we would stand a much better chance at funding this program adequately now and in the future.
TRTA members must recognize that the battle for health care funding will be very difficult. We have many friends in the Texas Legislature, but many are saying that fewer dollars will be available. TRTA is a successful advocacy organization because we find ways to work with our elected officials and make good things happen.
It takes hard work and a consistent effort to tell our story. It takes dedicated members willing to call and email their elected officials and let them know our TRS-Care program is in dire circumstances.
The struggle for more funding for the TRS-Care plan is underway already. The Texas Legislature must take a comprehensive look at how they fund this vital retiree health care program.
The changes made to TRS-Care in June may be viewed as a modest reduction in benefits for retirees; however, if the Legislature does not act to deal with this health care crisis, TRS-Care plan design and premium increases may make the plan unrecognizable compared to how we know it today.
Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We will continue to follow the progress on TRS-Care, and provide you many more opportunities to get involved! If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!