After two years of planning, the UCC's Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) and the denomination's Pension Boards have announced that a new collaborative employee health plan will launch this fall thanks to the participation of Retirement Housing Foundation in Long Beach, Calif.
With 2,600 employees and 155 housing communities, UCC-related Retirement Housing Foundation is one of the nation's largest non-profit providers of housing and services for older adults, people with disabilities and economically disadvantaged families.
The agreed participation by RHF represents a significant boost behind the creation of "CHHSM Health." Until recently, the Pension Boards' comprehensive health plans have covered many UCC clergy and lay employees in local churches and regional settings, but, to a lesser extent, the employees of CHHSM's 80 corporate members and 357 facilities.
RHF's decision to join the health plan came after a routine evaluation of its benefits package.
"We need to be sure that we nurture [our employees] by providing reliable, flexible, affordable health coverage," said the Rev. Dr. Laverne Joseph, president and CEO of RHF. "CHHSM Health gave us the benefits flexibility we sought along with responsive service grounded in our common UCC values."
Since 2005, CHHSM has worked closely with its members and the Pension Boards to find ways to collaborate on employee health care.
Michael A. Downs, the Pension Boards' president and CEO, said his organization believes that "flexible, responsive resources," such as CHHSM Health, represent both good business practice and a fulfillment of the church's mission.
"When the church's ministries save money in health care costs, they have more resources to do God's work in the world," Downs said. "Thanks to CHHSM Health, we hope that RHF will be able to spend less money and time on health plan issues and more time and talent caring for those in need."
The Rev. Bryan Sickbert, CHHSM's president and CEO, said, "Michael Downs and his team understand the importance of helping the church's healing and service ministries operate efficiently and with good stewardship. We look forward to many years of productive collaboration on behalf of our members and the people they serve."
RHF, founded in 1961 by two UCC clergy and a layperson, provides housing to 16,000 people in 24 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.