August 1, 2011
Over the last several months, a subcommittee of Diocesan Council has been working on developing a resolution to be presented at this year’s Diocesan Convention. The issue at hand is regarding healthcare coverage, but its implications reach beyond that. In this time where much effort has been focused on making healthcare accessible to all, your General Convention of 2009 took a position on this issue that is fundamental to our shared communion, both in philosophy and in practice. They passed Resolution A177, better known as the Denominational Health Plan (DHP).
The Denominational Health Plan requires that all full time (1,500 hours or more annually) employees working under the authority of the Church must be provided with health care coverage through the Episcopal Church Medical Trust. In addition to this requirement, there must be parity between lay and clergy employees in provision of that coverage on a parish level. The dioceses of the Episcopal Church have been asked to create a policy that brings all churches in compliance with these requirements by January 1, 2013.
Enclosed you will find a recommendation that will bring the Diocese of Missouri in compliance with Resolution A177. Although the potential impact of changing the way health coverage is offered and paid for will not be a significant change or financial burden for the Offices of the Bishop or the majority of our congregations, adherence to the spirit of this recommended resolution will take a commitment to social justice and our Baptismal covenant.
So that you may consider this proposed recommendation in light of the current situation, we are including some talking points that may assist you in your considerations:
- Resolution A177 requires the establishment of a Denominational Health Plan and that the plan provides comparable coverage to what is currently being offered.
- Resolution A177 requires that the Episcopal Church Medical Trust be used for benefits. All parishes and missions in the diocese are now using the Medical Trust for clergy and lay healthcare coverage, except for one that is using a non-Medical Trust plan for its lay employees.
- A survey was conducted to obtain information regarding healthcare coverage for employees in the Diocese of Missouri. 42 of 47 surveys were returned.
- The surveys that were returned reported 254 employees. Of those employees, 81 are currently classified as full time, working 1,500 hours or more. 35 members of that full time group are clergy.
- Survey data indicated that all lay employees working 1,500 hours or more currently were covered under a medical insurance plan, either through the diocese or another source.
- Based on current survey data, if the proposed resolution is adopted, five or fewer of our congregations will need to update their policies on healthcare access and compensation, revising benefits for a potential 13 employees.
- A proposal to add a disincentive or incentive policy to this resolution is currently being discussed. It is our hope that this policy will prevent entire families from transferring to Medical Trust coverage if they have an opportunity to be covered elsewhere.
- In the Diocese of Missouri, all clergy are currently offered medical coverage for themselves and their families with 100% of the premium paid. The exception is the Offices of the Bishop, where both clergy and lay employees pay a small portion of their premiums.
- Under the Denominational Health Plan, individuals will continue to have the option to “opt out” of the diocesan health plan if they can prove coverage through another source.
- The Medical Trust will continue to work with the Diocese of Missouri to select health plan offerings that are appropriate for all individuals in the diocese.
You are strongly encouraged to review this information and discuss it with your vestry and parishioners.
Questions and comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The subcommittee would also like to invite you to join in a DHP Forum to ask questions and share your thoughts. The forum is scheduled for Saturday, August 20, from 9:30 – 11:00 AM at Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood.
DIOCESAN COUNCIL DHP SUB-COMMITTEE: RECOMMENDATION ON THE
IMPLEMENTATION OF A177 (2009)
APPROVED FOR DISCUSSION: JUNE 4, 2011
In its consideration of the theology imbedded in A177 (2009), the social and economic justice it envisions (A125, 2006) and the financial challenges of its implementation, the DHP Sub-Committee thoughtfully and prayerfully discerned the following foundational principle which shapes this recommendation offered to Diocesan Council.
• We believe that access to high-quality, affordable health care is essential to our lives individually and communally and is not an optional “benefit” dependent on either employment status or vocation.
In addition, we acknowledge that commercial insurance is the primary instrument through which such access is achieved by those employed in the United States. Thus, the parity between lay and ordained employees required by A177 can only be achieved through the equal treatment of both in plan design and pricing.
Three operational issues were especially important in the sub-committee’s deliberations and the formulation of our recommendation. First, we recognize that financial resources vary significantly among parishes within our diocese and have no intent to impose a financially burdensome mandate on any community of faith. Second, we want to ensure that every parish in the diocese that currently provides employee health insurance coverage maintains or enhances this coverage. Under no circumstances, would we support a reduction in existing benefits or an increase in the individual’s current financial responsibility for the cost of health insurance solely to comply with A177 or this recommendation. Finally, we believe that a reasonable surcharge or incentive should be included in the cost of health insurance for the spouse, domestic partner or dependent of a church employee who has access to health insurance coverage (other than the Diocesan Health Plan) through their employer.
Therefore, the DHP Sub-Committee offers the following recommendation for consideration by Diocesan Council.
- In accordance with Title I, Canon 8 of the Episcopal Church and to be implemented no later than January 1, 2013, congregations within the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and the Office of the Bishop shall pay 100% of the cost of individual health insurance coverage (selected from the offerings included in the Diocesan Health Plan and administered by the Church Pension Fund) for all lay and ordained employees working 1,500 or more hours annually.
- Lay and clergy employees of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and the Office of the Bishop eligible for required individual health insurance coverage under Section 1 of this recommendation may elect not to participate in the Diocesan Health Plan if they have access to coverage through other approved sources, including for example: Medicare; Tricare; a former employer; or a spouse’s or domestic partner’s health insurance plan.
- Congregations within the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and the Office of the Bishop shall not reduce existing coverage or increase the cost of existing coverage to employees to comply with A177 or this recommendation.
- Benefit design and premium support parity is required within each congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and the Office of the Bishop in the provision of health insurance coverage for lay and ordained employees.
- A monthly premium surcharge or incentive (to be determined in consultation with the Church Medical Trust) is to be applied to coverage purchased by a lay or ordained employee for a spouse, domestic partner or dependent who has access to health insurance (other than the Diocesan Health Plan) through their employment.
- Congregations within the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and the Office of the Bishop are encouraged, if financially possible, to exceed the minimum standard of health insurance coverage for their lay and ordained employees.
- Schools, day care facilities and other congregational and diocesan institutions, regardless of the independence of their incorporation or tax status, are encouraged to adopt the principles articulated in this recommendation.
In offering this recommendation to Diocesan Council, we pray with you: “Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (BCP, Collect 25. For Labor Day, p. 261).
Diocesan Council DHP Sub-Committee
The Reverend Todd S. McDowell, Chair