A group of retired public school employees, along with two current employees nearing retirement, recently met in McAllen to begin working on a legislative agenda for the 2021 Legislative Session. Their agenda will address the critical needs of Teacher Retirement System of Texas retirees.
Addressing health care
First on the group’s agenda is health care. In 2017, the Texas legislature raised the health-insurance deductible for TRS retirees under the age of 65 from $400 to $1,500. The move also stripped retirees of their medical and prescription co-pay. Those who have their spouse on their plan must pay a total of $3,000 out of pocket before insurance kicks in. (The only exceptions are a few “preventive care” procedures and a list of “standard generic” prescriptions.)
While doing this, the Texas legislature maintained an extremely affordable health insurance plan for the other state retirement system, Employees Retirement System of Texas. ERS covers all state employees other than public school employees and Texas legislators. While the TRS deductible saw an increase to $1,500, the ERS deductible remains at zero dollars. ERS members also have a zero-dollar monthly premium for their health insurance.
Cost of living
The second priority on the group’s legislative agenda is a cost-of-living increase (COLA). Only the Texas legislature can authorize a COLA for TRS retirees. The last authorization was in 2013 at three percent with a cap of $100 per month. It was only provided to Texas public-school employees who retired before Aug. 31, 2004. TRS retirees are calling for legislators to provide them with an automatic annual COLA, like Social Security provides. Their TRS pension is the only form of “social security” for most public-school retirees in Texas, so they feel failing to provide a COLA is failing them.
The group is also working on a congressional legislative agenda, primarily focusing on Social Security fairness for public school employees, as well as police officers, firefighters and government employees affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.