This week, I decided to write about changes/sessions/organizations my fellow public school retirees should know about:
1. As you should know by now, the Texas Legislature worked diligently during the 2017 legislative session to turn our healthcare upside down. For those of us under 65, our deductible is going from $400 to $1500. We will no longer have a co-pay for prescriptions. Instead, we will pay 100 percent of our prescription drug cost until we reach the $1500 medical deductible. After that, the plan will pay 80/20. The exception to this? A list of standard, generic medications that will be completely covered by our new-and-significantly-reduced healthcare plan. (Find that list by clicking here.) To learn more about all of our prescription drug coverage changes, click here.
For those who are 65 and over, you will still have a co-pay through your Medicare prescription drug plan. You can click on the link above, too, to learn more about the changes taking effect January 1.
2. Why did the Texas Legislature increase our deductible to $1500 and significantly increase our premiums over the next four years while continuing to provide healthcare to all other state employees (INCLUDING retired legislators) at a $0 deductible and $0 premium? I believe what many others have said—because Texas teachers have been a proverbial sleeping giant, many not voting during state elections and most not involved in organizations fighting for our benefits like other groups--like police officers and firefighters--do.
One of the first things I recommend is joining the Texas Retired Teachers Association. The annual membership fee is just $35, and TRTA worked tirelessly to restore what the Texas Legislature did to us during the regular session. (They originally increased our deductible to $3000. After “the sleeping giant” awakened, they reduced it to $1500 during the special session, still $1100 more than we paid previously and not restoring our prescription drug coverage.) Imagine if TRTA and some of our teachers’ associations hadn’t gotten involved! To learn more about TRTA and to join, go here.
TRTA also has local units that meet on a monthly basis and work to get more public school retirees involved in educating other retirees, networking, getting out the vote, and lobbying on our behalf. Local membership is $10 per year. Getting involved in my local unit is a commitment I made because of what the Texas Legislature has done. To find the local unit nearest you, click here.
3. In case you haven’t heard, TRS is currently holding informational sessions about all of the changes we can expect to our healthcare plans. You must register to attend. For more information on sessions near you and to register, click here.
If you live in McAllen, one morning session in McAllen has been added. It will be held October 25. If you prefer to attend the McAllen session but already registered for one of the sessions in Weslaco/Mercedes, be sure to cancel that registration and register in McAllen. Don’t wait or you will miss out.
4. Become a member of Texans for Public Education. This membership is free, and this is how the group is described on the TfPE website: We're a group of people who are sick of what the politicians are doing with our school system, so we're taking it back using something they understand very well. We're block voting, and that's a very personal decision with which we want every member comfortable.
TfPE is non-partisan. A research crew is diligently combing through the voting records, campaign contributors, media releases, and other critical information of each elected state official (House, Senate, and State Board of Education). Once opponents join the races, they will also be thoroughly researched. The committee then votes to move each candidate to “friendly” or “unfriendly” status. Members are then provided with the rating and the research to back up that rating, and there is a process to challenge the rating. I strongly urge you to not only visit the TfPE website but to become a member of the closed group on Facebook.
When election time rolls around, TfPE members will work tirelessly to get fellow Texans who support public education to block vote according to the candidates’ final status. This group is not only about public school employee benefits. It’s about supporting public education in our state.
5. Finally, on a much lighter note, for those retirees who live in the Rio Grande Valley and who want to get informed on a wide range of health topics, join us for monthly DHR Retired Professionals Committee meetings. The meetings are held the first or second Friday of each month, depending on the availability of the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Lunch is provided. For more information about this group, which is actually open to all retirees, not only those of us who retired from the public school system, please send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout the year, I will be updating retirees on important news. AWAKEN, SLEEPING GIANT!
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 email@example.com. (Photo by Sarina Manahan)