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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, greets constituents at the Boggus Ford Events Center in Pharr during the Hidalgo County Democratic Party 2014 statewide and regional elections returns festivities on Tuesday, November 4.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

On Friday, February 27, a bipartisan plan to fully fund TRS-Care, which is the health insurance program for retired public school employees of Texas, including retired classroom teachers, was praised by Canales, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. The three men said they will vote for the measure developed by the House Committee on Appropriations, of which Muñoz and Longoria are members, when the funding legislation hits the House floor as part of the state budget later this spring. “The health insurance program for more than a quarter-million Texans and their dependents was in danger of running out of money, which could have forced insurance premiums to go up or benefits to be reduced, which are unacceptable options,” said Canales. “Through this action, we can protect this vital program for the next two years, giving the Legislature time to develop a long-term strategy to make sure we can keep health insurance protections affordable for retired teachers now and in the future.” TRS-Care is a self-funded retiree group health benefits program administered by the Teacher Retirement System. TRS retirees who are not eligible for the Employee Retirement System (ERS), University of Texas System or Texas A&M System health benefit coverage may be eligible for TRS-Care. “TRS-Care is one of the benefits that have been earned, through years of public service to Texas, by the dedicated professionals who educate millions of students and help ensure the future of all of us,” said Muñoz. “The House Committee on Appropriations, through the leadership of our chairman, Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton), has made keeping this fund solvent one of our top priorities.” As of December of 2014 TRS-Care had approximately 250,949 participants (retirees and their spouses and dependents) in Texas. For Hidalgo County, as of December 2014, TRS-Care covered approximately 9,219 participants, according to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. “TRS is one of our state’s greatest programs, offering support to the thousands of retired teachers in Texas. I am very pleased that Chairman Otto and my fellow Appropriation Committee and House colleagues support the continual funding of TRS,” said Longoria. “We all know a hard working teacher or retiree who has made a difference in our life and it is imperative that we continue to support and protect their right to TRS.” Since 95 percent of Texas’ retired school employees do not receive Social Security benefits, securing this funding will prevent any drastic change in access to affordable health care to retired public school employees, House leaders emphasized. In addition to Muñoz and Longoria, all other House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee played key roles in protecting TRS-Care.

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Rep. Canales, Rep. Muñoz, Rep. Longoria support House plan protecting health insurance program for retired public school employees, including retired teachers

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

A bipartisan plan to fully fund TRS-Care, which is the health insurance program for retired public school employees of Texas, including retired classroom teachers, was praised by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya.

The three men said they will vote for the measure developed by the House Committee on Appropriations, of which Muñoz and Longoria are members, when the funding legislation hits the House floor as part of the state budget later this spring.

“The health insurance program for more than a quarter-million Texans and their dependents was in danger of running out of money, which could have forced insurance premiums to go up or benefits to be reduced, which are unacceptable options,” said Canales. “Through this action, we can protect this vital program for the next two years, giving the Legislature time to develop a long-term strategy to make sure we can keep health insurance protections affordable for retired teachers now and in the future.”

TRS-Care is a self-funded retiree group health benefits program administered by the Teacher Retirement System. TRS retirees who are not eligible for the Employee Retirement System (ERS), University of Texas System or Texas A&M System health benefit coverage may be eligible for TRS-Care.

“TRS-Care is one of the benefits that have been earned, through years of public service to Texas, by the dedicated professionals who educate millions of students and help ensure the future of all of us,” said Muñoz. “The House Committee on Appropriations, through the leadership of our chairman, Rep. John Otto, has made keeping this fund solvent one of our top priorities.”

As of December of 2014 TRS-Care had approximately 250,949 participants (retirees and their spouses and dependents) in Texas.

For Hidalgo County, as of December 2014, TRS-Care covered approximately 9,219 participants, according to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

“TRS is one of our state’s greatest programs, offering support to the thousands of retired teachers in Texas. I am very pleased that Chairman Otto and my fellow Appropriation Committee and House colleagues support the continual funding of TRS,” said Longoria. “We all know a hard working teacher or retiree who has made a difference in our life and it is imperative that we continue to support and protect their right to TRS.

Canales’, Muñoz’, and Longoria’s support came after Otto, R-Dayton, on Wednesday, February 26, announced on the House floor that the 150-member legislative body would receive a state budget plan from the House Appropriations Committee that will include money for TRS-Care.

“I want to reassure every member in the House and every retired teacher that the House will fully fund TRS-Care,” said Otto. “This issue is too important to go unaddressed so I commit to you today that the House will fund our obligations to our retired teachers.”

The TRS-Care retiree health insurance program was created in 1986 and now has roughly 240,000 participants, according to Otto. Without the planned action by the House of Representatives, the TRS-Care shortfall is expected to be approximately $768 million by the end of the 2016-2017 biennium.

Both Valley lawmakers said they shared Otto’s commitment to providing TRS-Care with all necessary additional funding to ensure the future sustainability of this vital program.

Since 95 percent of Texas’ retired school employees do not receive Social Security benefits, securing this funding will prevent any drastic change in access to affordable health care to retired public school employees, House leaders emphasized.

In addition to Muñoz and Longoria, all other House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee played key roles in protecting TRS-Care.

Rep. Marisa Márquez, D-El Paso, directly serves on the House Appropriations Education Subcommittee.

In the recent weeks, that subcommittee had been hearing testimony and working on the budget shortfall of the Teacher Retirement System. Based on the subcommittee’s work and recommendations, Otto was able to announced his intention to adopt the education committee recommendations and fully fund TRS this biennium for $800 million, the El Paso lawmaker said.

“I am incredibly proud to be a part of the subcommittee that will provide our retired teachers with adequate funding for their health benefits,” Márquez said, “Teachers take on an immense responsibility in educating our children and tirelessly invest in our future. This is small step in appreciating their commitment.”

The Texas House Republican Caucus – whose members comprise the majority of the House membership – also supports the plan to protect TRS-Care, to “honor the commitment made by the Texas Legislature to provide adequate health care at an affordable cost for our public education retirees,” the GOP caucus announced.

“I was privileged to be in attendance today at the Appropriations meeting and fully support Chairman Otto’s efforts and thank him for his leadership on this matter,” said Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, the Chair of the House Committee on Pensions. “Texas teachers are a large part of molding the Texas leaders of tomorrow and many teachers and retirees have expressed their concerns on this matter. I am glad the House will address the shortage of funding for retiree health care over the next two years as we continue to assess long-term solutions in my committee for those who served our state and our school children for so many years.”

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426. Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, has served in the Texas Legislature since 2011 and represents all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeno, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. His Capitol office is located at E1.508 in the Capitol extension, and may be reached at (512) 463-0704. His District Office is located at 121 E. Tom Landry, Mission, and may be reached at (956) 584-8999. Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, represents House District 35, which encompasses both Hidalgo and Cameron Counties and includes all or portions of La Joya, Sullivan City, Peñitas, Alton, Edinburg, Monte Alto, Edcouch, La Villa, Mercedes, Weslaco, Santa Rosa, Primera, Palm Valley, Combes, Harlingen, and La Feria.

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