(Your next packet of information is in the mail, or you may read it now by clicking on the links provided by TRTA)
The incorporation of the new TRS Medicare Advantage Plan is a big change for many TRS-Care participants. Some TRTA members eagerly are awaiting the cost savings associated with these plans. Others want nothing to do with the plan and want to opt out at the earliest opportunity.
Nearly all TRTA members contacting our office want more information. There are some common questions that many members are asking:
- Will my doctor(s) and medical provider(s) accept the Medicare Advantage plan?
- Am I able to opt out?
- When will TRS be able to answer direct questions about provider networks in all areas of the state?
- Does TRTA think it is a good idea for me to be on the Medicare Advantage plan?
Let me answer the last question first. The answer is one that many people will not want to hear. The fact is that this is a very diverse state. An individual’s health care options vary widely by location. Some areas are losing doctors and hospital networks that are willing to accept Medicare. Other areas are full of medical provider options; but some are saying they are not accepting Medicare Advantage plans. Many people just want to know if this is a good program or one that could force them potentially into situations with their health care they cannot afford (either financially or personally).
We know this is not going to be an easy decision. The good news is that there is still plenty of time to have ALL of your questions answered before it impacts your insurance options. The program will NOT auto enroll anyone until January 1, 2013. Over the next five months, TRS will provide many opportunities to address your questions.
TRTA is not endorsing or condemning the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage plan. We do, however, have tremendous confidence in the people working on your behalf at TRS. These dedicated employees are doing everything they can to make the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage plan beneficial for those choosing to utilize it.
Please remember the Teacher Retirement System of Texas is providing you with a 100% guarantee opt-out provision. If you review the Medicare Advantage plan over the next few months and decide to stay in the plan in 2013 as many TRS retirees will, you can opt out at any time for any reason—even if you have been in the plan for six months.
It is also important to know that if TRTA did not think that TRS was doing everything in their power to provide a comparable plan that is beneficial to our members, we would oppose its implementation. We are not opposed to TRS officials working on plan design options that provide equal or better benefits, and savings to the member and the plan. The TRS Medicare Advantage plan is NOT the average, off-the-shelf Medicare Advantage plan available in the open market. It has been tailored to serve TRS retirees and is based largely on the Medicare supplement programs already available through TRS-Care 2 and 3.
TRTA is trying to learn more about medical provider networks. We have been told by TRS and Aetna that even though a medical provider (doctor or hospital) may have a policy against taking Medicare Advantage, they may not have a problem taking the TRS Medicare Advantage plan and/or payment from the plan because it is different than the standard general market plan.
What this means is that if you have already started checking with your medical providers and have been told that they do not take Medicare Advantage, it is worth the effort to verify with Aetna as their plan and payment allowances may be acceptable to the provider. This may seem like extra legwork on your part, but it could open doors for you and many TRS retirees in your area. TRS and Aetna have the ability to make changes, and your role simply is to check with your medical providers and provide feedback.
TRS and Aetna are preparing to go on the road and visit with TRS-Care plan participants directly. These meetings should be announced soon. TRTA will post the schedule on the Inside Line and on our web site as soon as it is received.
We understand that many of you have questions and concerns. We are also concerned. TRTA is confident that TRS is working for you on this plan implementation. They want you to know what is or is not possible in your region, and they are very appreciative for your feedback.
Finally, TRTA is working with TRS to develop a “checklist” that you can use to make a better, more informed decision about whether the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage Plan is a good option for you. As we continue to receive your comments, we will relay them to TRS and provide answers back to you.
We have the next five months to work together and get as much information as possible. We are focused on helping you have the information necessary to make a good decision for you and your family. Remember to click on the links above to see a PDF version of the information packet that TRS is sending. Pages 4-8 provide details on how these plans may save a TRS-Care participant out-of-pocket costs. Please continue to provide your questions and feedback.
Friendly Voting Reminder
Today is the end of early voting in the Texas primary runoff elections, but that does not mean this is your last opportunity to go to the polls! Remember that Tuesday, July 31 will be your final opportunity to vote. There are MANY VERY CLOSE ELECTIONS STILL TO BE DECIDED. TRTA members vote in high percentages, so we need you to get to the polls and vote for the candidate(s) you believe are the most interested in protecting your TRS defined benefit plan and your health care benefits. TRTA does not endorse candidates, but if you have a question about a legislative voting record please let us know. More information about candidates can be found by asking your friends and fellow TRTA retirees. If you want to contact one of our local units in your area, please click the link below for more information about our statewide TRTA local unit network : http://LocalUnits.org/LocalUnitDirectory/
Thank you to everyone who has already taken the time to renew your TRTA membership. As you all know, we are in a major fight to protect your TRS defined benefit plan and health care benefits. Your membership is helping us work for you. If you are not yet a TRTA member, or would like more information about our growing retiree network that exceeds 73,000 members, please call us at 1.800.880.1650 or send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.