House Appropriations Meets Tomorrow, Expanded Review of Senate Bill 19

Published date: 7/24/2017

As the first called special session of the 85th Legislature continues, members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) are hearing intense discussions about bills that may impact their retirement benefits.

House Appropriations Meets Tuesday, July 25

Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 25, the House Appropriations Committee will meet to discuss several bills impacting retirement benefits for Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) retirees. The meeting will begin at approximately 10:00 a.m. after the full House has adjourned or recessed in Room E1.030 of the Texas Capitol. A live webcast of the meeting will be made available from this webpage once the meeting begins. TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee will testify.

TRTA encourages members living in the area who are able to come to Austin tomorrow to attend!

The following bills are scheduled to be heard during tomorrow’s meeting:

HB 20 Author: Ashby | Darby | VanDeaver | Zerwas | Howard
  Caption: Relating to an appropriation of money from the economic stabilization fund to decrease health insurance premiums and deductibles for certain health benefit plans administered by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

 

HB 76 Author: Darby | Guillen | Oliveira
  Caption: Relating to a supplemental appropriation for Teacher Retirement System of Texas retiree health.

 

HB 80 Author: Darby | Guillen | Oliveira
  Caption: Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

 

HB 151 Author: Gooden | Guillen | Thompson, Senfronia | Darby | Cook
  Caption: Relating to the administration of certain group benefits by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas; making an appropriation.
 

 

Expanded Review of Senate Finance Committee Meeting, SB 19

As our members know, the Senate Finance Committee met this past Saturday, July 22 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 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. To read the full text of SB 19, please click here. You can view archived footage of the meeting by clicking here. Discussion of SB 19 begins at about 35 minutes into the meeting.
 
During the meeting, Senator Huffman shared a history of TRS-Care funding problems, stating that “the structural funding of TRS-Care is flawed. Because funding is based on percentages of active employee payroll rather than actual healthcare costs, we continue to face shortfalls every biennium.”
 
The Legislature chose to freeze premiums and deductibles for retirees from 2005 until the recent 85th Legislative Session, which further compounded the program’s funding problems. In 2015, the Legislature paid $768 million to cover the TRS-Care shortfall; however, the shortfall ballooned to over $1 billion by 85th Legislative Session. Senator Huffman stated that “even after major reforms, we still could have problems next session,” as the TRS-Care shortfall is projected to be between $300 to $500 million by 2019.
 
“I can say with assurance that no one in the Legislature wanted to leave the retired teachers without health insurance,” said Huffman, after explaining that House Bill 3976, which made significant structural changes to TRS-Care, passed unanimously in both bodies at the end of the 85th Regular Session to avoid a complete shutdown of the program.
 
Huffman also said that she, Chairman Nelson, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have made a commitment to continue the added benefits being provided by SB 19. “Our intention moving forward is that this will be your benefits… we intend to make it a priority.”
 
Senator Kirk Watson (D – Austin) asked if the additional funding provided by SB 19 is intended to be permanent. Huffman replied that it is the intent to keep the funding in base budget. Watson stated “if what we want to do is make it a commitment, the way to make it a commitment would be to raise the state’s statutory contribution rate,” and asked “have you identified what you would recommend we use as a source of funding beyond this?”
 
Huffman said that it has been discussed. “As you know it’s difficult to commit to a future Legislature how we are going to do things . . . but I think publicly stating that the commitment is here for the retired teachers is significant and meaningful. I’m confident that it means we will continue to do what we need to do for the retired teachers.”
 
Huffman reiterated that part of the issue is TRS-Care’s flawed funding mechanism, and expressed hope that TRS-Care would be part of discussion on public school finance next session, though this is not how the Legislature has traditionally addressed funding for TRS-Care.
 
Chairman Nelson replied by saying “we need to take advantage of the opportunity we have of this being placed on the call and we need to look at how can we use this to get us up to next session…it’s all about us and where the Legislature is going to place our priorities next session, and I’m telling you right here right now my priority is going to be on our teachers next time.” She continued “I can promise you is it will be a top priority and I actually heard our Lieutenant Governor say this is going to be a priority.”
 
Senator John Whitmire (D – Houston) echoed some of Senator Watson’s remarks by urging committee members to “keep working…with some very real, concrete solutions” and to “work with the House better than we are.”
 
TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie and Chief Health Care Officer Katrina Daniel served as resource witnesses for the committee, and addressed inquiries about future shortfalls. The TRS-Care shortfall is expected to be between $500 and $700 million by 2020-2021, $2 billion by 2022-2023, and between $3 and $3.5 billion by 2024-2025.
 
TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified during the meeting, thanking Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick for focusing on TRS-Care, as well as Senator Huffman for her tireless work on the program and Chairman Nelson for her work to find the money to pay for the proposed changes in SB 19.
 
“I want to thank all of you for what I think is the most human discussion I’ve ever heard on the TRS-Care issue.” Tim continued by saying that “we are in a moment in time where we have a chance to do something, and I am heartened to hear that we will come back with another focus on this in the future session.”
 
“My members are scared and they’re afraid and they’re concerned--they don’t know how they’re going to pay for their medicine,” said Lee. “These are important issues. Whatever goes on between the House and the Senate this special session, I implore you please do not let this session end with nothing happening…something has to happen.” Lee said that the Texas House is discussing possible use of the Rainy Day Fund to help with TRS-Care, saying that retirees are grateful their program survived but many “do not know how they are going to pay the cost of the care.”
 
Huffman thanked Tim for his work, saying he and TRTA have been instrumental in bringing the concerns of the retired teachers to the Senate. She also agreed that the Senate needs to work with the House on this issue.
 
Finalizing his remarks, Lee said “we are struggling against something that none of us control, and that is the price of healthcare,” adding that “while I cannot say one approach is better than the other, I will say that the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, members of this committee, members of the Legislature—I appreciate the focus on this issue and so do my members.”
 
Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham) discussed cost drivers for the program, stating that “we (the Legislature) are not going to be able to afford the trajectory we are on, not just as a state, but as a nation.”
 
Senator Watson responded by saying “we have an obligation to meet the needs of these people that we’ve made commitments to that are our retired teachers in the context of whatever is the cost of medical care. I don’t want anybody to listen to us complain about the cost of medical care…as though that is an excuse for us not properly funding these programs.” The true burden, he said, is on the retirees.
 
TRTA appreciates the many comments and concerns expressed by members of the Senate Finance Committee, and will work with both the Senate and the House to ensure that financial relief for retirees is passed during the special session.
 

TRTA Advocacy Tip for Members

Let’s take this opportunity we have during special session to be as effective as possible! TRTA encourages members to like their legislators’ Facebook pages and communicate with them often during special session. A lot of positive work is being done to help retired teachers right now, and it is vital that we keep the lines of communications open with our Senators and Representatives.

Please ask your legislators to work with their colleagues to add as much additional funding to TRS-Care as possible! Not on Facebook? Use our toll-free Legislator Hotline to call your legislators today: 1.888.674.3788!
 

Senate Bill 19 Proposed Changes

 
Senate Bill 19 Proposed Deductible Changes
 
Non-Medicare Retiree/Family Deductibles
From $3000/$6000 to $1500/$3000
 
Medicare Retirees
Medicare Retiree from $146 to $121
Medicare Retiree & Spouse from $590 to $565
Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $479
Medicare Retiree & Family from $1106 to $1081
 
Retirees with Adult Disabled Children
Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $433 to $233
Non-Medicare Retiree & Family from $1074 to $874
Medicare Retiree & Child(ren) from $504 to $304
Medicare Retiree & Family from $1106 to $906
 
Senate Bill 19 Proposed MOOP Changes
 
Non-Medicare Retiree/Family with Adult Disabled Children Maximum Out-of-Pocket
From $6650/$13,300 to $3000/$6000
 

TRS-Care Premiums
Current 2017 Premiums
Vs. HB 3976 (Passed during Regular Session)
Vs. SB 19 (Proposed, not yet passed)

Current Premiums 1/1/2018 Illustrative Retiree Premiums (HB 3976) Senate Bill 19 Illustrative Premiums
Prior to January 1, 2018 Calendar Year 2018 Calendar Year 2019 Calendar Year 2018 Calendar Year 2019
 
 
Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $0 - $310
Retiree & Spouse= $30 - $665
Retiree & Child(ren)= $28-$392
Retiree & Family= $58 - $747
 
Medicare B Only Retirees
Retiree Only= $0-$245
Retiree & Spouse= $25-$600
Retiree & Child(ren)= $34 - $327
Retiree & Family= $59 - $682
 
Medicare A&B Retirees
Retiree Only= $0 - $110
Retiree & Spouse= $20 - $465
Retiree & Child(ren)= $41 - $192
Retiree & Family= $61 - $547
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $200
Retiree & Spouse= $739
Retiree & Child(ren)= $433
Retiree & Family=$1074
 
Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $146
Retiree & Spouse=$590
Retiree & Child(ren)= $504
Retiree & Family= $1106
 
Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874
 
Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $250
Retiree & Spouse= $789
Retiree & Child(ren)= $483
Retiree & Family=$1124
 
Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $146
Retiree & Spouse=$590
Retiree & Child(ren)= $504
Retiree & Family= $1106
 
Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874
 
Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $200
Retiree & Spouse= $739
Retiree & Child(ren)= $433
Retiree & Family=$1074
 
Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $121
Retiree & Spouse=$565
Retiree & Child(ren)= $479
Retiree & Family= $1081
 
Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874
 
Retirees with Adult Disabled Children
Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $784
 
Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $304
Retiree & Family= $906
 
Non-Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $250
Retiree & Spouse= $789
Retiree & Child(ren)= $483
Retiree & Family=$1124
 
Medicare Retirees
Retiree Only= $121
Retiree & Spouse=$565
Retiree & Child(ren)= $479
Retiree & Family= $1081
 
Current Disability Retirees not Eligible for Medicare
Retiree Only= $0
Retiree & Spouse= $539
Retiree & Child(ren)= $233
Retiree & Family= $874
 
Retirees with Adult Disabled Children
Non-Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $283
Retiree & Family= $924
 
Medicare Retiree & Child(ren)= $304
Retiree & Family= $906

 
Currently, any retiree who selects TRS-Care 1 with retiree-only coverage has a $0 premium. Premiums for Care 2 & 3 are currently determined by a retiree’s Medicare status and years of service.
 
Beginning 1/1/2018, TRS will provide a $0 premium for current disability retirees through 2021, a blended stair-step premium for non-Medicare retirees and a blended premium for Medicare eligible retirees regardless of whether or not they are eligible for Part A at no cost or purchased Part B.

 
 

Prescription Coverage


No changes were made to the proposed prescription drug plan designs from HB 3976.

  1/1/2018 Standard Plan 1/1/2018 Medicare Advantage Plan
Retail Copays Non-Medicare retirees (under age 65) All Medicare retirees (age 65 and older)
Generic Preventative Maintenance $0
80%/20% (after deductible is met)
$5
Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $25
Non-Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $50
Mail Order Copays
 
   
Generic 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $15
Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $70
Non-Preferred Brand 80%/20% (after deductible is met) $125

Thank You

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.
 
Be sure to connect with us via FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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