FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Staci Rives
July 19, 2017 (512) 463-0707
REP. ED THOMPSON RESPONDS TO CONCERNED RETIRED TEACHERS OVER TRS-CARE CHANGES
AUSTIN– After hearing from many retired teachers about how the new health insurance plans will impact their fixed monthly annuities, Representative Ed Thompson released the following statement.
"This session, we were faced with addressing a shortfall to TRS-Care that was more than $1 billion," Rep. Thompson stated. "It took an amazing effort led by Chairman Ashby, TRTA, and TRS to keep the unthinkable from happening."
The TRS-Care retiree health insurance program has undergone significant changes this legislative session. The program, which provides health care for 260,000 public education retirees and their dependents, has experienced significant revenue shortages for several sessions.A state budget deficit made it nearly impossible to fund the shortfall without structural changes. If nothing had been done to address TRS-Care, the shortfall would have reached $3 to $4 billion in two years.
The funding mechanism for the program was not able to keep up with the general increase in health care costs. While many plans in the private sector have been rising gradually over the last 12 years, Texas retired teacher premiums have remained the same. As health care costs have increased, standard contributions to TRS-Care have not increased., and active teacher payroll in Texas has not increased for a number of years. These issues led to problems in paying for total program costs, which led to deficits.
While some retirees may not like all changes agreed upon in House Bill 3976, without its passage, TRS-Care would have faltered and every retiree in the program would have faced a much bleaker, harsher reality.
"I am hearing from TRTA members and other TRS retirees about how painful the changes to the TRS-Care program will be once they go into effect in January 2018. I understand that many retirees are not happy with this solution," Thompson said. "These changes were not made with a light heart, and the available options for saving the program were not easy. TRS-Care changes will certainly put financial strain on many TRS retirees. The struggle to keep this program alive, affordable, and accessible is not over, and I want to do all that I can to make it better for the future."
After much negotiating, House Bill 3976, which is the bill that ultimately passed this session to reform TRS-Care, received support from all stakeholder groups, including constituent groups representing both active and retired teachers and their school districts. The final bill included provisions to permanently increase revenue from the state and school districts. As the state and districts are absorbing increased costs moving forward, so are the teachers - through the increased premiums and deductibles.
Representative Ed Thompson is currently serving in his third term in the Texas House of Representatives and his district encompasses Pearland, Alvin, Manvel, Brookside Village, Hillcrest, Liverpool, and portions of Iowa Colony and Rosharon. He is the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Environmental Regulation and serves as a member of the House Committee on Transportation.