The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) announced on August 21, 2013 that premium rates for all participants in the 2014 Medical Plan will either decrease or be equal to current rates. The Committee on Administration (COA), which was granted commission authority by the General Assembly in June to make changes to the medical benefits plan, approved the Board of Benefits proposal to set premium rates based on participant’s age.
The premium structure for 2014 will be:
- For those less than 40-years-old, rates will be 50 percent less than 2013;
- for those 40-54, rates will be 25 percent lower, and
- for those 55+, rates will be unchanged for 2014.
According to Phil VanValkenburg, chief operating officer of the EPC, the self-insured church medical plan of the EPC is currently funded beyond the necessary reserves required by the denomination. The overall health of plan participants translates into reserves that the COA determined would best be passed along in savings to plan members.
VanValkenburg said that currently the EPC plan has “Three coverage levels, from comprehensive to core benefits,” and that those plans “are priced the same for all ages of participants, with modest regional rate variations.”
So the big change is that premiums will now be based on the age of participants. VanValkenburg acknowledged the need to take an initial step down what will be a long road for self-insured plans that will necessarily find itself competing with the Affordable Care Act’s state and federal exchanges.
Although participation in the EPC medical benefits plan is technically mandatory, VanValkenburg acknowledged that “actual enrollment is far less than universal. Generally, pastors are more likely than non-ordained staff to be enrolled.”
He also acknowledged that each session makes the final determination about the stewardship of funds in each church. The COA is facing the reality that many sessions will evaluate the cost of coverage under the EPC plan and public exchanges. The question that cannot be answered at this point is whether or not sessions will make decisions purely on dollars and cents or if they will consider the moral value of a plan that protects their Christian conscience.
That “moral shelter” is one of the goals of the EPC medical plan which include:
- Access to all without underwriting: pastors with or without call, non-ordained f/t staff, missionaries, dependents, retirees
- Coverage options from core to comprehensive benefits, from moderate to very high “participant value;” all ACA compliant; participant choice in large PPO network or out-of-network
- Affordable through economies of scale, negotiated provider group rates for medical and Rx, and rates based on actual costs such as coverage, location and age
- Portable continuous coverage between assignments in churches, states or countries; deductible and maximum out-of-pocket amounts retained after relocation; provider network available anywhere in US
- Moral “shelter” (permanently exempt) from coverage for (and premiums paying for others’) emergency contraceptive products such as Plan B and Ella that can terminate a pregnancy.
- Convenient to obtain and use; need no local church expertise to find and purchase; professional participant/client service all day every work day; secure internet-assisted access to personal records
Enrollment in the EPC medical plan is open from Nov. 1-20, 2013, to all eligible employees of EPC churches. The new rates will be effective Nov. 1 for all current participants. Coverage and rates for new participants will be effective on Jan. 1, 2014.
More detailed information is available on the www.epc.org site. For immediate information, contact VanValkenburg a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established in 1981, the EPC is based in Livonia, Mich. and consists of over 450 congregations with an eagerness to plant churches across the United States and a world mission priority of sending missionaries to unreached people. The EPC website says, “Our desire is that every one of our congregations will be an outpost of the Kingdom in post-Christian America with every member viewing himself or herself as a missionary on a mission.”