At its April 17 meeting, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees decided on new health plans for TRS-ActiveCare and set the rates for 2020–2021. Changes include improved pricing, more network choices, simplified coverage, and a new plan with lower premiums and copays.
The changes come after TRS solicited input from participating school districts and other stakeholders in addition to holding regional meetings and a summit in Austin that attracted close to 250 districts. The primary needs identified included:
- Lower total premiums
- Lower cost for family options
- Simplified coverage
- Elimination of county boundaries in the ActiveCare Select plan
- Maintaining a choice between a broad network and a more exclusive one
Affordability is likely the top priority on most employees’ minds when it comes to healthcare, and TRS is understandably eager to point out that employers in TRS-ActiveCare pay 15 percent less than districts not in the program. In addition, TRS reports that while other plans saw a 24 percent increase in costs from 2013 to 2019, TRS healthcare plans only increased by 7 percent.
Overall premiums for 2020–2021 are 5 percent less as a result of switching to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX). The newly approved plans provide savings in the form of:
- A new plan with lower premiums and doctor visit copays
- Premiums decreases for members covering children in every plan except TRS-ActiveCare 2
- An 8 percent decrease to ActiveCare Primary+ (formerly ActiveCare-Select)
- Monthly employee-only premium increase of just $19.00 for the high deductible plan
Other changes that were in direct response to statewide feedback include:
- Offering a statewide network instead of different networks by regions
- Maintaining an option for access to a nationwide network
- Elimination of copays for emergency room visits and outpatient surgery under the Primary+ plan
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) changes
Contract changes to the HMOs serving three different regions of the state were also approved. BCBSTX’s HMO option (Blue Essentials Access) will now serve west and south Texas, and Baylor Scott & White's (BSW) HMO option will continue to serve the central/north Texas region. The changes appear to be mostly positive for members. South Texas will see modest premium increases ranging from $5 to $10, while central/north Texas will pay $8 less for employee-only premiums but pay more for all others. West Texas is the one region that will see premium decreases across the board.
Considering TRS must act within the bounds of available state funding, the changes for the upcoming year appear to be an improvement for both employers and employees.
A summary of the major modifications along with an overview of the highlights for the revised plans are available on the TRS website. Changes are scheduled to take effect September 1 of this year with open enrollment running from July 15 to August 21.
Keith McLemore is an HR and compensation consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Keith an email at email@example.com.
Stay up to date with all the latest HR news and trends by joining the HRX mailing list!