Clergy health care resolution approved by Synod delegates
July 5, 2011
Delegates to General Synod 28 took it upon themselves to
restore the vigor of the resolution “Affirming Healthcare Coverage for UCC Authorized Ministers and Their Families” after the committee had effectively
diluted it. The amended resolution passed with 81 percent of the vote.
Patti Kenney of the Michigan Conference took the floor
Tuesday morning to restore words, excised by the committee, resolving to
“encourage the Pension Boards serving the UCC to offer to make medical coverage
available to all clergy and their family members when they are called to, or
begin a new position, within the life of our church.”
The committee, a few days prior to the resolution coming
before delegates, had substituted a call for education about the program
offered by the Pension Board and wider enrollment in the program so that the
pool could be increased and the costs spread over a larger group.
Paul Bryant Smith of Connecticut said, “The entire point of
the resolution was excised. To remove that language guts the whole thing.”
“We decided we were not in the position to urge one piece of
coverage without taking into consideration of the total costs of the program,”
said Nancy Gottschalk, a member of the committee.
A number of clergy members stepped to microphones in the plenary
to tell personal stories of incomplete or denied health coverage.
“Lord, you keep them humble, and we’ll keep them poor, was
the motto of many church councils over the years,” said Julie Bell of Penn
Central. “So many of us have lost the ability to have health insurance. Please
take seriously the needs of pastors.”
Annie Mockridge of Missouri Mid-South Conference noted that
General Synods in the past have voted to affirm the right of all to have health
care. “How can be we be taken seriously if we can’t provide health care for our
own clergy families?”
“The Pension Board strives to make health insurance
available to everyone, but the only way we can pay for it is to spread the
costs,” said Marti Baumer, chair of the trustees of the Pension Board, from the
plenary floor. “We can do what you ask but we will have to increase the costs
During the hearings, Michael Downs, executive vice president
of the UCC Pension Boards, offered some background on the UCC health insurance
plan. “Our plan is a 100 percent
self-insured PPO. We are high consumers of health care, and we have to
understand that reality.”
He noted that
The average age of a person in the UCC plan is
59; it’s 32-34 nationally.
The average cost for a PPO nationally is
$15,000; it’s $17,000 for the UCC plan.
The open enrollment period is within 90 of a
clergy person’s first call.
Two-thirds enroll in the plan after those first
90 days but a medical exam is required to determine any pre-existing conditions
that would preclude coverage.
“We don’t ‘risk’ rate, and we don’t cancel,” Downs said. “In
2012 we will begin to ‘age’ rate which means we will give lower rates to people
in their 20s and 30s. We won’t raise the rates for the older population.”