A big slap in the face from the State of Texas

This week, I planned to provide you with a history of both TRS (Teacher Retirement System of Texas) and ERS (Employee Retirement System of Texas); however, this happened…

I received an email from a friend who is an ERS retiree. His sister is a TRS retiree, so he has expressed a great deal of sympathy for what has happened to us. He sent me an email he had just received from TPEA (Texas Public Employees Association) regarding the results of the most recent legislative session, which proved to be disastrous for retired educators in Texas. Not so for all other retired state employees.

According to the TPEA website (bolding mine): Founded in 1946 by dedicated state employees, TPEA has fought for almost 70 years to promote and preserve the quality benefits enjoyed by state employees and retirees—the benefits that make it possible for Texans to devote themselves to careers in public service. Today, we are the largest association for active and retired state employees, and we’re also the only nonunion, nonpartisan association serving public servants during and after their careers. We were instrumental in the creation of the Employees Retirement System (ERS) pension fund, and we successfully lobbied the Legislature to offer health insurance to state employees and retirees.

As I have shared with you before, the organization for retired teachers is TRTA (Texas Retired Teachers Association). On their website: Founded in 1953, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is the largest association in the nation for retired teachers with a history of active involvement in the well-being of their communities!

(While writing this, I came up with another question for my Summer Series interviews: What organization is available for those who retired from our public education system who did not teach, like our custodians, secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and maintenance staff? And do administrators, counselors, and librarians join TRTA? I will let you know when I find out.)

This is what jumped out at me…or, more accurately, what slapped me in the face…HARD…from the TPEA email my friend sent to me (bolding mine): On the health care front, the state will continue contributing 100 percent of active and retired employees’ health insurance premiums and 50 percent of spousal and dependent premiums, with no change to benefit design. HealthSelect plan participants can anticipate premium increases of approximately 2 percent for spousal and dependent coverage but no pocketbook hit for the employee- or retiree-only premium.

Juxtapose that with the news we (retirees who spent our careers working in the state’s public education system) received from TRTA following this legislative session. While the state will continue to pay 100 percent (Yes, 100 percent!) of the ERS retirees’ healthcare premium, over the next four years, mine will increase from the current $295 to $370 per month. Next year, it will actually decrease to $200, but remember that I chose the high plan (TRS-Care Tier 3) under our current plan. Now, under this new plan, while ERS retirees will see “no change to benefit design,” retired educators in Texas who are under age 65 will have only one plan. One far-less-than-ERS-retirees-and-our-legislators’ plan.

Last week, I received an email from someone who read my recent columns about the hit we are taking. This retired teacher’s email read, “I currently pay a premium of $410 per month for me and my husband. Do you know what my new premium will be in January?” It made me sick to my stomach, literally, when I responded, telling her that starting January 1, her premium for herself and her husband will increase to $739 per month. (And that’s just the beginning. It will continue to increase through 2021.)

What’s more, guess what else ERS retirees’ with no change to benefit design means? According to the information on the HealthSelect (administrator for ERS retirees’ healthcare) website, their in-network deductible for participant/family? $0. (ZERO for both the participant and the family!) Their non-network deductible? $500 for participant and $1500 for family. And their out-of-area deductible (for retirees who now live outside of Texas)? $200 for participants and $600 for family.

Meanwhile, for public educators who spent our careers teaching or performing other jobs with children in our state but who have far inferior healthcare than other state employees and our state legislators, starting in 2018, here is what our deductibles will look like: Pre-65 retirees will be in a high-deductible health care plan. The deductible to reach for an individual using an in-network provider is $3,000. The plan has a $7,150 Maximum Out-of-Pocket cost (MOOP). More information about the deductible for spouses and families is listed here. Once the deductible is reached for in-network coverage, the insurance will cover 80 percent of the retiree’s expenses. Remember, pre-legislative session, our deductible was $400. Starting January 1, 2018, our deductible will be $3000. ERS retirees: $0 deductible.

This is a true, hard, slap in the face to all public educators in the State of Texas!

Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com.