Yesterday I received the ominous note from the Conference about the 2010 Heath Benefit Rates. When I read them I defecated a molded rectangular block of clay. Here is what part of the letter said [the blocked letters are theirs not mine] REMEMBER THAT THESE PLANS ARE SELF INSURED BY THE CONFERENCE AND THERE IS NO INSURANCE COMPANY INVOLVED IN THE RATE SETTING PROCESS PRIMARY PHYSICIANCARE IS SIMPLY OUR CLAIMS ADMINISTRATOR AND RATES ARE BASED UPON THE ACTUAL USAGE OF THE PLAN BY CONFERENCE MEMBERS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS.
I understand but I also DON’T understand. Now I know you have to have attended MIT when you were 12 to fully understand health insurance today but the amount we pay has been going up every year by almost by double digit percentage. Let me paint you the picture.
For 2009 each church in our conference $9,300 a year / $775 a month for the clergy health care. If that clergy wants to have his/her family on the insurance then they currently pay $9,840 a year / $820 a month. These rates have both increased by 12.8% in one year. In 2007 the rates were: Clergy $6,060 a year/ $505 a month and Family $7,500 a year or $625 a month.
So for 2010 the rates are as follows: Church pays $10,500 a year or $875 a month and for family $11,100 or $925 a month. As you can tell this is why I defecated a molded rectangular block of clay. Within three years our health insurance (because it ain’t a benefit anymore!) has gone up by 73% for clergy and 48% for family.
Once again, and you can tell by the above statement, this increase is because of our usage. Which I takes as if we would stop using our health benefits they would go down. My view is if I am paying an arm and a leg I’m using the crappy benefits we have. But what this really means it is all our fault!
This is not the first time I have ranted on our Health Benefits, it seems every time this year I will rant and complain. At Annual Conference this year we were promised that our rates will continue to increase over the next 5 years to the tune of another 50%. This means the rates in 2015 will look like this: Clergy $13,950 a year / $1162.50 a month and Family $14,760 a year / $1,230 a month.
My two roommates from Seminary and my two best friends are in neighboring conferences. During a vacation together I asked them what their conference Health Benefits are like. Their numbers were half what we in the Western North Carolina Conference pay. Yes we are a large conference, the fourth largest [from my understanding] in the nation. We have more clergy to insure but something has to stop and it needs to stop soon because it is adding a huge stress on local congregations and clergy families.
I’ll be transparent here, I make $42,540 for 2009 which isn’t far off the base salary for an ordained elder. My family health insurance is 23% of my yearly income before tax. Almost of quarter of what the church pays me has too go to healthcare. Do not get me started about we actually have to pay. We are still in disagreement about how much we actually have to pay for having our daughter which somehow is more expensive than having our son when we stayed a day later in the hospital with him and other things. But it looks like we are talking $3,000-$3,500 out of our pocket [that is WITH insurance].
The bleeding has to stop at some point. With these benefits we are asking young clergy who are coming out of seminary with heavy school debt to then take a quarter of their salary to cover their family. It is putting a huge burden on our family and I am sure it is the same else where. We are looking into getting my wife and children on their own separate plan outside the WNCC. The trouble is we are looking into the tax ramifications as well. Right now I can deduct these costs from our taxes and moving them to a separate policy we want to make sure we can still deduct that cost.
For those of you out there smarter than I, is it Discipline mandated that health insurance is done within the Annual Conference? What would it look like to move to the Jurisdiction level? Then we would have a vast number of people who could cover the type of catastrophic costs our conference has seen over the couple of years. What if two or three conference got together to cover their health insurance costs? Is the Western North Carolina Conference the only one dealing with drastic changes like these? Please tell me we are not alone.
I am stepping off my soapbox here and thank you for being part of my venting. I am going to go back to hitting my head against the wall to dull the pain.