Bristol Federation of Teachers

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Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior — May 6, 2018

Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior

We’re happy to report that SB 453, AAC Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior, passed in the Senate unanimously!

But with only 3 days to go in the legislative session, it still needs to be brought up for a vote in the House of Representatives and we need your help to ensure it does.

Please contact legislative leaders in the House and urge them to call for a vote on SB 453 to prevent assaults on teachers and keep our classrooms safe.

Click here to email the legislative leaders.

The clock runs out at midnight on May 9, so now is the time to make your voice heard and help ensure schools are safe places to work and learn.

Reduce Teacher Tax — April 25, 2018

Reduce Teacher Tax

It’s time to roll back the 1% teacher tax increase.

The legislature is currently considering action on a budget bill. We have two weeks left to fight for a roll back of the teacher tax from 7% to 6%.

Now is the time to call your legislature and ask them to pass HB 5430 Act Concerning Teachers’ Retirement Commission Contributions.

Because of teachers’ voices, HB 5430 was passed out of committee.

Rolling back this unfair increase will require votes in the House and the Senate before midnight May 9. Your legislators and legislative leaders need to hear from you in order to make this happen.

Click here to email your legislator and tell them to roll back the teacher tax and pass HB 5430.

Click here to email the legislative leaders and urge them to call for a vote on HB 5430.

District Survey — April 22, 2018

District Survey

All Bristol teachers are encouraged to participate in the district survey being independently conducted online. A one time use access code has been provided to each teacher and was placed in school mailboxes last week. The survey asks a number of multiple choice questions  before allowing comments. Please note that before hitting “submit” you will have the opportunity to extend the survey and answer more questions. You will have this opportunity several times, perhaps tripling the number of questions. Doing so will allow you to give feedback on the morale of your school, and direction of the district.

This is a unique opportunity to give honest, direct feedback to Central Office administrators and elected Board of Education members.

Stop Students from Assaulting Teachers — April 10, 2018

Stop Students from Assaulting Teachers

The Connecticut Legislature will soon be voting on a bill that will help make schools safer and more conducive to learning.

Your voice can make the difference in passing new laws to prevent assaults on teachers.

Contact your legislators today and tell them to vote for SB 453: AAC Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior, to ensure schools are safe places to work and learn.

Click here to contact your legislators.

Tell them to pass SB 453 to prevent assaults on teachers.

Here is a an excellent article that perfectly summarizes what is occurring at elementary schools all over Connecticut (and probably the nation).

Bristol Legislators Support Bills to Help Teachers — April 5, 2018

Bristol Legislators Support Bills to Help Teachers

Today, Senator Henri Martin voted in favor of HB 5430, which would eliminate the 1% extra “teacher tax” increase to retirement contributions, and imposed on public school teachers during last fall’s comprise budget. Thanks to Senator Martin and other legislators, the bill passed out of committee 50-1, and now awaits a vote before the entire legislature.

Similarly, Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, a member of the education committee, voted in favor of SB-453, a bill concerning school safety and disruptive behavior in the classroom. The bill has now advanced out of committee 35-0, and also awaits a vote from the entire legislature.

Bristol teachers appreciate the support of these legislators!

Urgent Action Needed: Bristol’s Senator Henri Martin Vital to Ending Teacher Tax — April 4, 2018

Urgent Action Needed: Bristol’s Senator Henri Martin Vital to Ending Teacher Tax

The legislature’s powerful Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, which includes Bristol resident and Senator Henri Martin, is scheduled to meet this Friday to take up the proposal to end the unfair occupational tax targeting teachers. If you haven’t already sent a message to lawmakers on the panel urging they support the measure, will you take two minutes to do so now? Doing so could help every teacher get 1% returned back into their salary.
 Earlier today, nearly 200 retired union members gathered at the State Capitol in Hartford to talk one-on-one with their elected representatives and legislative leaders. They delivered the message of our active educators loud and clear, demanding an immediate repeal of the targeted tax on teachers.
Sending a quick email to your representative and senator on the finance committee will help amplify our collective voices and advance the legislation forward. Be part of rolling-back this unfair policy and demonstrate the strength of the “U and I in Union” today.
More to come, and in solidarity,
 Steve McKeever

Vice President for Pre-K-12 Teachers, AFT Connecticut
Jan Hochadel

President, AFT Connecticut
Enough! Teachers Go On Strike! — April 2, 2018
Time to Remove Unruly and Dangerous Students — March 27, 2018

Time to Remove Unruly and Dangerous Students

The Connecticut General Assembly has has recently held hearings on a bill designed to address perhaps the greatest problem occurring in schools – unruly and dangerous students. It is Senate Bill 453

The full text and current status of the bill can be found here.

A story, with video, that ran on WFSB on the topic is here.

A CEA article on the topic and summary of the bill can be found here.

WTIC ran a segment on the topic, and a link to audio is found here.

Changes to Retiree Health Insurance — March 26, 2018

Changes to Retiree Health Insurance

The state Teacher Retirement Board is making significant changes to insurance for Retiree Teachers starting this summer. If you are currently retired, or planning to retire June 30, please read this.
Meeting Dates to Discuss Changes
The Teachers’ Retirement Board has approved an additional retiree health plan, giving retirees who have Medicare Part A and Part B a choice of two plans.  The new plan will be the “base plan” with the current plan, administered by Stirling Benefits, a “buy-up” option.  All current plan members will be moved into the new base plan on July 1st, unless the retiree re-enrolls with the current Medicare Supplement program (the Stirling plan).   The new “base” plan will be a Medicare Advantage (MA) program insured by Anthem.  Anthem is the for-profit insurer that purchased the assets of the non-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Connecticut.  Dr. Joseph Fields, the consultant to the TRB, announced that the new Anthem program will have a $5.00 copayment for most office visits, specialist visits, chiropractic, mental health, physical therapy and other common medical services and no copayment for wellness visits.  There is a $100 copayment for emergency room visits and ambulance services and a $200 copayment for hospitalizations.  The maximum out of pocket costs for any retiree is capped at $2,000 per year.
The new program has both in-network and out-of-network benefits and is a Medicare Advantage PPO.  The network is broad, with 95% of Connecticuts physicians and all CT hospitals in-network.  There is coverage across the United States.  This plan has better network coverage and benefits than most individual Medicare Advantage programs and will offer Silver Sneakers.  Express Scripts will continue to administer the prescription drug portion of the program for either the Stirling or Anthem option.  Stirling will continue to administer the vision/hearing benefit and Cigna will continue as the dental plan administer.  Members who do not re-enroll with Stirling will see their July premium decrease $22 per month for the complete TRB package (medical, Rx, dental and vision/hearing).  Those who re-enroll to stay with Stirling will see their July premium increase $103 per month for the complete package.  The difference in cost between the two programs (for the full package) is $125 per person per month. 
As with all contracted health programs, the details are important.  More information, including a complete benefit summary and the full Medicare Advantage policy, will be available from the TRB at some future date.  Various retiree associations will also post information about the two plans.  We will update our site with links to these resources as they become available.
Here are our answers to some questions we are getting from TRB members:
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Why is the TRB doing this?
Dr. Fields stated that the State of Connecticut has underpaid the TRB claims fund approximately $190 Million over the last fifteen years.  Instead of funding 33% of the expected contribution, the state is contributing only 11% over the next two years.  Without changes, the health plan account could run out of money by this September. 
We understand that the increased cost to stay on the Stirling plan offsets the decrease in state funding and will help stabilize the TRB health fund.  We believe that the changes adopted by the TRB are a measured and appropriate response to a difficult situation that the TRB did not create.
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Why is there such a price difference?
The Anthem plan and Stirling plan operate in fundamentally different ways.
With the Stirling plan, Medicare pays first; then the Stirling plan pays the doctor the remainder, usually up to 100% of the allowed amount.  Most members report having no out-of-pocket costs after paying the annual Medicare Part B deductible.  Members can see any doctor that accepts Medicare, anytime.  To administer the medical program, Stirling receives a fixed fee of $4.69 per member per month and does not earn any more or any less regardless of the claims submitted by members.  While Stirling Benefits is a for profit company, the TRB plan itself is a not-for-profit program.  All claims are paid from the TRB health fund.
The new “base” plan is an insured program.  The federal government will pay Anthem an amount that Medicare would expect to pay for TRB members.  According to Dr. Fields, Anthem will receive approximately $11,000 per member per year.  Anthem uses these funds to pay your claims.  As an insured program, Anthem takes a risk: if claims are higher than expected, they will lose money.  Alternatively, if claims are lower than $11,000, they will make a profit.  And, because the program is rated with 4.5 stars, a high quality rating, Anthem will also expect to receive a $500 per member per year quality bonus from the federal government.   The new Medicare Advantage (MA) plan is not a gatekeeper program.  This means that members can see a specialist without a referral from their primary care physician.  Both Medicare and Insurance companies use pre-certification and authorizations to help control unnecessary over-utilization of care.  However, most industry experts agree that insurance company authorizations are typically more stringent than traditional Medicare
The different financial model allows Anthem to offer an insured program at a lower rate than the current plan.  Aside from these differences, the additional $103 to stay with Stirling reflects the amount the state is not contributing to the TRB health fund.   
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How do I re-enroll to Stay with Stirling?
We understand that there will be a two week period to re-enroll with Stirling at the end of April to the beginning of May.  We have heard that there will be a telephone option, an electronic option and a paper option.   We will post re-enrollment information as soon as we have it. 
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How can I learn more?
Until the TRB publishes more information about the details of the plan, you may find more information from the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC), American Federation of Teachers (AFT) or the Connecticut Education Association – Retired websites.   Meanwhile, to make an informed decision, you can research how Medicare Advantage plans work.  A lot of information on these plans are available from unbiased sites, including, AARP, and Consumer Reports.  Most major news sites also contain articles about how Medicare Advantage programs work, and how they differ from Medicare Supplement plans (the Stirling plan is a group Medicare Supplement).  Please be aware that much of the online information applies to plans purchased by individuals.  The TRB Anthem and Stirling plans are both “group” programs, so the individual enrollment rules may not apply to you.  
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Stirling Benefits encourages all members to learn more about their health plan options and make a well informed choice. There is more to choosing your plan then the benefits design and the cost.  How care is accessed and how you are serviced are also important considerations.   We understand that the TRB does not have a preference – financially, one way or the other – which plan you choose.  We believe that TRB members are being offered two good choices at a fair price.  Would we like the Stirling Plan to cost less?  Certainly.  Is it worth the difference in price?  Thats for each member to decide.
Finally, Stirling staff are thankful and humbled to have served TRB members from our offices in Connecticut for 25 years.  We are grateful to have helped so many retirees over these years and look forward to serving you in the future if you decide that staying with Stirling, despite the extra $103 per month, is worth it. 
Wishing you good health!
James (Jamie) Stirling
Stirling Benefits, Inc.
From TRB
You may have recently been notified of upcoming changes to the Teacher Retirement Board’s Medicare supplemental health insurance. While all of the details are not yet finalized, we wanted to provide you with an objective review of the facts to date.
·         The current Supplemental Plan offered through Stirling  (with Rx, Dental and Hearing & Vision) will still be available. The premium to continue with this coverage is increasing to $259 per month effective July 1, 2018. (The current premium is $156 per month.)
·         The new Medicare Advantage plan through Anthem (with current Rx, Dental and Hearing & Vision) will cost $134 per month, which will be $125 less per month than the increased cost for the Stirling plan.
Please expect to receive an enrollment packet from the TRB and Anthem sometime in late April. Effective this July, the Anthem plan will become the default coverage for all eligible retired teachers and spouses currently enrolled in TRB supplemental coverage. This means that even if you take no action, you will be automatically moved from the Stirling Supplemental plan into the Anthem Medicare Advantage plan effective July 1. There will be an opt-out form for retirees who would like to stay in Stirling instead of shifting to Anthem. As far as we know, these elections will not be permanent, and retirees will be able to change their plan selection during open enrollment each January.
If you’d like to learn more:
Two Important Bills in CT Legislature — March 13, 2018

Two Important Bills in CT Legislature

The Connecticut General Assembly is in session and has several bills of
interest to teachers. Please contact BFT President David Hayes if you are willing to give
testimony in person, or would be willing to submit written testimony.
More information is below.

Regarding the bills, any new language to an existing law is underlined. Any
language being eliminated will have a line going through it.

SB 453 is a law dealing with classroom safety and disruptive behavior Please
consider offering testimony on this bill. Testimony on this bill needs
to be submitted by Tuesday evening.

HB 5430  “An Act Concerning Teachers Retirement System Contribution”
is a bill  that would repeal the extra 1% tax teachers started paying
into the Teachers’ Retirement System in January. Testimony
on this bill needs to be submitted Thursday evening.

Also, please use the link at the top of this page to contact your
legislators and ask them to support these bills.