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March 22, 2000     (512) 463-0300

Senate Finance Subcommittee on ERS & TRS Employee Benefits Issues Held Austin Hearing on Wednesday

AUSTIN - The Senate Finance Interim Subcommittee on ERS & TRS Employee Benefit Issues held a public hearing Wednesday, January 14, 2000, at the Texas State Capitol.

The subcommittee consists of five members appointed by Finance Chair Bill Ratliff. Senators Steve Ogden of Bryan, chair, Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Mario Gallegos, Jr. of Galena Park, John Carona of Dallas, and Jon Lindsay of Houston all serve on the subcommittee.

Finance Chair Ratliff has asked the subcommittee to review employee benefit issues facing the Employees Retirement System (ERS) and Teacher Retirement System (TRS). The review shall include, but is not limited to, funding contingencies, projected funding needs of TRS-Care, HMO competition and the cost of providing health plans, and the issues surrounding provision of Optional Retirement System or other alternatives for state employees.

Invited testimony from Craig Hudgins of the Legislative Council began the meeting. He provided an overview of the state law regarding provisions of health insurance benefits through the Employee Retirement System, the Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas System.

John Wielmaker, of the Legislative Budget Board, spoke on the appropriations for health insurance programs at the Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas System, along with related budgeting issues.

Robert Molloy with the University of Texas System discussed the UT San Antonio health insurance program and budget, funding performance and projections, health insurance costs and trends.

Steve Hassel from the Texas A&M University System (TAMU) testified about the TAMU health insurance program and budget, its funding performance and projections, and the schools health insurance costs and trends.

Stephanie Coates from the Legislative Budget Board gave an overview of the appropriations to the Employees Retirement System, the Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas System, with regards to health insurance and related budgeting issues.

Sheila Beckett of the Employees Retirement System of Texas told the subcommittee about ERS health insurance programs and its budget, most recent funding performance and projections, health care costs and trends, funding alternatives and related costs/savings, HMO bidding and competition, and optional long-term care benefits coordinated with TAMU.

Tracy Baroni with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Tom Kowalski of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute, and Gary W. Anderson of the Texas Public Employees Association also testified to the subcommittee.

After numerous public testimonials, the subcommittee recessed subject to call of the chair. The Senate Finance Subcommittee on ERS & TRS Employee Benefits will meet again in April to continue discussion of its charges.

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