It’s time to reform our own health care
Written by Gregg Brekke
July 3, 2011

General Synod is one of those settings where inspiration comes from expected and surprising places – including amazing addresses by the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the Rev. Jim Moos and Leonard Pitts Jr. that elicited hundreds of Twitter and Facebook responses.

And there is no way to fully acknowledge the dozens of amazing presentations and performances that inspired General Synod-goers all day long at Suncoast Saturday – though you can read about many of them at <ucc.org/synod/news.html>.

But inspiration is also found in the challenges, often in the form of calls to justice, that resolutions provide to the United Church of Christ and to the church at large.

Of the many resolutions that will be deliberated beginning today one that stands out to me, as the result of several recent conversations, is “Affirming Health Care Coverage for Clergy Families.”

What, to some, may seem a minor issue is, in fact, a major justice concern for many clergy families and employees in various settings of our church.

The continuity of health coverage when there is an extended period of unemployment between calls, the near-impossible option for enrolling new members once the clergy member enters the The Pension Boards health care plan, and the denial of coverage to clergy and family members for pre-existing conditions are all issues that the General Synod has urged the U.S. government to address through its call for Universal Health Coverage at General Synod 18.

Why then has the UCC’s own Pension Boards been so slow to adopt what the General Synod considers dire justice issues in health care for the rest of society? Why should the General Synod accept policies by the The Pension Boards that it opposes elsewhere?

Yesterday morning I was speaking to a colleague whose spouse recently lost his job. Because of the The Pension Boards’s policy of a “once or nothing” enrollment of family members when clergy member or church employee enters the system, this colleague’s spouse has been denied entrance into the health and dental plan.

When I enrolled in the The Pension Board’s health care plan I was quickly informed that my son had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. He was born prematurely. Fortunately for me, because it was my first enrollment in the “once or nothing” system, a clause stating that no member would be denied because of pre-existing conditions kicked in and the The Pension Boards was forced to enroll my son.

But I doubt my colleague will have as much luck because of the current policies of the The Pension Boards. And I’m sure there are hundreds of clergy families out there choosing between continuation of their The Pension Boards health care plan, food, housing or their children’s education.

I’m hopeful that the General Synod will hold the UCC’s Pension Boards to the same standards it has called for in other health care initiatives.

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