Texas AFT will speak out on your behalf on Monday at the next town hall conducted by the Teacher Retirement System regarding possible changes in future retirement benefits, both pension and health care. But you can add your voice in defense of these hard-won benefits, too.
You are invited to attend the town hall at the TRS building in downtown Austin, 1000 Red River Street, at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 12. Or you can participate via computer, tuning into the Webcast and submitting your questions and comments by e-mail. Here’s the online site where you can find the link (click on “Town Hall Meeting Webcast”) to see all the action on Monday afternoon: http://www.trs.state.tx.us/global.jsp?page_id=/about/announcement_town_hall_meetings. When the meeting starts, instructions will be given as to how you can submit questions via e-mail.
For your convenience, we repeat below some questions we suggested for the previous town hall held last month. (Be advised that there will be another of these town hall/Webcasts next month, tentatively set for April 4 in Birdville ISD in the Fort Worth area.)
Questions about the TRS pension fund
1. What share of the pension fund’s value comes from employee contributions, from state (and employer) contributions, and from investment earnings?
2. Some have suggested that the TRS pension fund is in dire financial straits, describing it as “under-funded” or “unsound.” What is the condition of the pension fund and are retirees in danger of losing their benefits?
3. What level of state (and employer) contribution would be required to make possible a cost-of-living adjustment or other benefit increase for retirees?
4. Some have suggested that valuation assumptions used by TRS—particularly assumed return on investment—are unrealistic and will lead TRS toward risky bets in shaky markets. How are the assumptions derived and how do they measure up to actual experience?
5. How much are the administration and investment costs for the pension plan and how do those costs compare to the administrative and investment costs for a private investment account such as a 401(k)?
Questions about the TRS-Care health program for retirees
1. It seems that every legislative session we hear about financial shortfalls for the TRS-Care health program for retirees. What is the problem?
2. What share of retirees’ health-care costs is paid for by contributions from active school employees, from employing school districts, from the state, from retirees’ premium payments, and from retirees’ out-of-pocket payments?
3. TRS-Care offers different levels of coverage, at least one of which historically has been comparable to the HealthSelect plan benefits that are provided under the Employees Retirement System to retirees from state agencies and state colleges and universities. Does TRS-Care today offer coverage comparable to ERS HealthSelect–and is the cost of such coverage for TRS retirees the same as for ERS retirees?
4. What would it cost to “pre-fund” health-care benefits, partially or fully, for retired school employees as we do for pension benefits?
5. TRS has published a “request for proposals” to get information about implementing “Medicare Advantage” coverage for TRS-Care members—an approach that ERS put in place this year for retirees in its HealthSelect healthcare plan. How is Medicare Advantage working for ERS retirees and what does that experience suggest for TRS-Care members—given that retired school employees constitute a population with many characteristics different from those at ERS and that TRS-Care members face significantly different premium costs?