Message from the Executive Director: Facing Challenges Together

Message from the Executive Director: Facing Challenges Together

June 8, 2020
Porter WilsonThere is no doubt about it, our world has changed since the last issue of Your ERS Connection. It’s hard to believe that not that long ago, words like COVID-19 and social distancing were not part of our vocabulary. As I write this, circumstances affecting our lives and routines are changing rapidly, and there is no way of knowing what our “new normal” will look like when you read this.

The one constant during these unpredictable days has been the willingness of Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) employees and plan administrators to serve and support you and each other. I could fill this newsletter with examples of how each have gone above and beyond during a unique and scary time. Here are a few:
  • ERS employees worked quickly to engage our Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health plan administrators to provide you with resources and support, and to communicate these new benefits. Among other things, they ensured that our health plan participants would not pay out of pocket for in-network visits related to COVID-19, and provided free virtual and telemedicine visits to help people stay home when they needed to see a doctor. They made sure members could get early refills of prescriptions if needed, and offered free phone support for those feeling anxious.
  • ERS managed to provide uninterrupted member service, on-time payments—including those ever-important annuity checks—and updates on coverage while working from home to comply with city and state emergency orders.
  • The Investments Division continued their work to lessen the impact of the economic downturn on the ERS Retirement Trust Fund. Because of their efforts to diversify investments over the last several years, the Fund has fared better than the market as a whole and is in a good position to capitalize as the markets build up again. I encourage you to read, or re-read, the article in the March issue of Your ERS Connection. You can also read what Pensions & Investments magazine had to say about our investment strategy.
  • In April, ERS Health Promotion Administrator Lacy Wolff led a webinar with tips on maintaining your health and spirit while staying at home. More than 600 people (a record) participated, with many telling us it was the kind of information they needed. (See the Events webpage for a schedule of wellness webinars .)
ERS and health plan administrators ensured that participants would not pay out of pocket for in-network visits related to COVID-19, and provided free virtual and telemedicine visits.
In the midst of all of this, I got a letter from a retiree who expressed gratitude for the state health insurance benefits that had helped her and her husband weather financial and health challenges over the years. It was a reminder that hard times don’t last forever, and we can always find things to be grateful for. 

As we’ve coped with unprecedented challenges, I’m grateful for and proud of our ERS employees, along with our plan administrators, who were creative and dedicated in continuing to provide service. I also want to thank the thousands of state employees and retirees like you who served and continue to serve all Texans, in good times and bad. Stay in touch, stay informed and above all, stay healthy.

Porter