The Joint Interim Committee to Study TRS Health Benefit Plans appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus issued its report on Nov. 17, 2016. The 200-page document includes background and recommendations for how to resolve the problems that plague both the active and retiree health insurance plans administered by TRS. Unfortunately, rather than endorsing the proposal from TCTA and others that more state funding be provided to help active employees with their premiums, the only recommendation for making ActiveCare more affordable was to reduce the plan options to only the lowest level of coverage and maintain the current funding structure.
Member Trent Ashby (chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that works on the TEA and TRS budgets) added a letter that included a message to active and retired school employees. He noted that the report is a “starting point” to provide context, and contains options he does not support, but that he looks forward “to the responses of active and retired teachers who have opinions on how we can best provide stable footing for the programs in perpetuity.” He also noted that taking no action could be catastrophic, and could result in TRS-Care failing completely.
Member Justin Rodriguez refused to sign the report, asserting that the proposed solutions would shift the burden onto active and retired employees.
Below are basic descriptions of the options suggested in the report. More details, including projected premium costs and more, are included in the full report.
Option proposed for ActiveCare:
- High Deductible Plan Only. Under this approach, ActiveCare would be limited to providing only a single level of coverage similar to the current ActiveCare 1-HD. Districts with more than 1,000 employees would be able to opt out of participating in ActiveCare; smaller districts would have a one-time opt out window, but would not be able to opt back in at a later date. Funding would remain at current levels ($75/month from the state and a minimum of $150/month from the school district). HMO plans would no longer be offered through TRS as an option.
Options proposed for TRS-Care:
- HRA and Medicare Advantage Plan. Retirees who are not eligible for Medicare would be provided a defined contribution plan with $400 monthly deposited into a Health Reimbursement Account and would use that stipend to purchase their own health insurance. TRS-Care would not be an option for these retirees.
Medicare-eligible retirees would enroll in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D (for prescription drug benefits) through TRS-Care. TRS-Care 1 (catastrophic coverage) would no longer be offered free of charge.
The report notes that every non-Medicare eligible retiree participating in TRS-Care 3 cost the plan $13,650, more than four times the cost of retirees with a Medicare Advantage plan.
- High Deductible and Medicare Advantage Plan. Non-Medicare eligible retirees would be able to enroll in a high deductible plan similar to TRS-Care 1 (which would no longer be offered for free). As in the previous option, Medicare eligible retirees would enroll in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D through TRS-Care. (The coverage level would be similar to the current TRS-Care Medicare Advantage 3).
TCTA will continue the fight to get more funding for school employee health insurance. We will need the help of our members in getting information out to legislators.