Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Church sees a wife and kids as a pre-existing condition

When The Episcopal Church went to a nationwide clergy health plan, there was considerable hope that a larger pool of payers would reduce premiums.

Well, it did for some. The 2011 premium notice has arrived:

Single person: $785 monthly; $9,420 per year.

Employee plus spouse: $1,570 monthly; $18,840 per year.

Family: $2,355 monthly; $28,260 per year.

As you can imagine, the cost of the family coverage is a budget buster for the average Episcopal congregation. It would cost my parish well more than half-again my combined salary and housing allowance. So I continue part time work at a local hospital to provide family medical at decent premiums.

The Episcopal plan is a good one in terms of the coverage provided. But I leave it to the reader to figure out the demographic for which it was designed. It is a decided disincentive for congregations to call or keep an ordained minister with spouse and child(ren).


The Archer of the Forest said...

Yeah, I had a random phone interview from the folks at CPG a while back asking me some various opinion poll type stuff. We got to the point were they asked an open ended question about what I think the CPG could do to be more inclusive, or some such language, as pertains to clergy and such to be more helpful.

I brought up this very issue of the way everything in the church is structured to give the Baby Boomers cheap coverage to the grave and leave the rest of us out to dry. You wouldn't believe how quickly that interview ended.

The Archer of the Forest said...

And for the record, when I started here at my current parish after our baby was born, I walked down the street to the local Insurance guy and asked him to write me a policy. For a family coming in off the street, he was able to write me a better coverage policy for half the cost while I was sitting there at his desk.

The Episcopal Church can do better.

The Underground Pewster said...

The economics are a clear disincentive to having a family. Maybe this will lead to the R.C. model of celibacy...Not!

TLF+ said...

Although not the case here in SD, I am aware of other dioceses that have pitched LGBT clergy to congregations because "they don't cost as much."

There is a lot to this insurance plan that goes unsaid. I think Fr. Ryan is right on about the "one generation" lack of foresight. I also think "the agenda" is a partial influence so, as Pewster points out, don't look for celibacy as concomitant with "single clergy."

Anonymous said...

"I walked down the street to the local Insurance guy and asked him to write me a policy. For a family coming in off the street, he was able to write me a better coverage policy for half the cost while I was sitting there at his desk."
-- Archer of the Forest

You're fortunate. Insurers often charge a bundle when you buy your own policy (i.e., are not in a group). Insurers can predict their costs more reliably for groups than for particular individuals or families. They fear, moreover, that people who buy their own policies are likely to incur greater medical costs than the average group member. Let's be glad for your good fortune even as we remember that many clergy families may not have such good options.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Kudos for pressing the point about inclusiveness.

-- Irenaeus

Anonymous said...

I can thank the taxpayers again for subsidizing my ministry. In my last full-time parish job (interim) I was given salary in lieu of insurance. I didn't need it because my wife, two kids and I were covered by her school district policy.

Archer of the Forest-- a member of my former parish was a trustee of the Pension Fund. My question to her was could the pension fund please allow a hypothetical priest with under five years participation in the fund to withdraw contributions to the fund or transfer them to a 401(k). Do I need to say that the answer was an emphatic "No!"? That makes six pension funds I never got vested in. C'est la vie.

Well, I don't plan on ever retiring and I do hope to live under my own vine and fig tree and have some chickens on the side. I have no idea what the insurance plan will be where I'm headed; I think my wife better keep teaching.

Ordinariate bound

caheidelberger said...

$28K+ for family health coverage? That's nuts! I'm boggled just by the principle of paying that much before you even get sick. How can anyone afford to have health coverage take such a huge percentage of their annual income?

TLF+ said...

Cory - your insights into the machinations of organizations are ahead of mine, but my opinion is that the Episcopal Church has embraced its own demise and is doing a bunch of things to serve one generation of people.

The plan appears to favor older clergy, meaning empty nesters in many cases, but also LGBT and divorced people making "mid life" changes.

Congregations usually carry the insurance of their clergy, but as you can imagine for an enviroment like SD, premiums approaching the size of the average state income simply will not fly.

A market place is created in which a young, traditonal clergy family (married couple w/ kids) simply can't be considered for open positions.

Anonymous said...

Father Tim,

Is it now mandatory that TEC congregations use this plan? Is it licensed in every state, or does TEC have some religious exemption to offer a nationwide plan? Also, it is incredible that TEC would mandate a single cost across the country.

One more thing-- I have no doubt that the plan includes abortion and contraception. I don't think the latter would be controversial in TEC, but isn't there some resistance to the former?

ordinariate bound

TLF+ said...

I believe that the plan is mandatory for those congregations that carry their clergy health coverage. Clergy can opt out of the plan and rely on other coverage provided by a spouse or non-church source they purchase.

Not sure about the abortion/contraception options - because the plan is designed for older, LGBT and empty nest clergy, I doubt that much discussion even came up and those options would be symbolic pokes in the eye.

The insurance entity seems to "subcontract" with a number of providers, so there's no real problem with state-to-state issues.

As I said above, the content of the plan seems pretty good in general. But the premiums are set to favor the current generation of clergy.