Retiree Committee members from across the state hold a news conference at the Capitol Thursday.
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas Benefits Committee met Thursday morning to discuss possible changes in benefits or premiums for TRS-Care Standard (retired plan members ineligible yet for Medicare). Although the committee could have approved a pre-scheduled $50-per-month premium increase, it chose to take no action, and thus premiums and benefits will remain the same through the end of the fiscal year.
The committee was bolstered to refrain from raising rates by a letter from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stating that the Legislature would find the money next session to make premium increases unnecessary.
As the TRS committee was meeting, our own Texas AFT Retiree Committee was moving forward with a press conference at the Capitol to protest the possible increases while also openly inviting Patrick to a meeting to discuss specifics on how he intends to shore up TRS-Care. At the news conference, retirees also demanded that the Legislature find a way to “roll back” the premium increases and benefit cuts enacted last session, after lawmakers failed to put enough money into the system to avoid the action.
“We’re asking Dan Patrick to sit down and work out a plan with us for rolling back the devastating premium increases and benefit cuts enacted while he was at the helm of the state Senate in 2017,” said Cheryl Anderson, Retiree Committee chair and retired Houston ISD teacher. “When you look at retiring, you plan carefully for every expense. With no cost-of-living increases for most teacher pensions in more than a decade, it’s unfortunately wise to plan for no new money each month. But when extreme increases in health-care costs get thrown on you out of the blue, you have to say, ‘Enough is enough. Time to go face to face with Dan and remind him of the promises made to Texas teachers and school employees.'”
It’s unsure yet how much TRS-Care will need in additional funding for the next budget cycle to keep the status quo in premiums and benefits–estimates are $238 million to $400 million. But our Retiree Committee members will be pushing for funding to erase the dramatic premium increases and benefit cuts enacted and scheduled with 2017 legislation.