Clergy Encouraged to Consider All Options on Conference Group Health Plan


November 01, 2017

In October, Director of Finance & Administration Nate Berneking and staff took to the road to explain changes coming to the Conference’s group health plan for 2018. The Annual Conference session approved those changes in June, and they will take effect on January 1. During his Benefits Roadshow presentation, Berneking explained that the changes are not that significant, but they do affect the most popular of plan selected by clergy.

For the last two years, the Conference has partnered with local churches to provide each full-time pastor with a “defined contribution.” The pastor then uses that contribution to off-set the cost of his or her health insurance. Beginning in 2018, the defined contribution will slightly increase to $9,276 for the year. Local churches will continue to provide $8,760 toward that contribution, an amount unchanged since before the current plan was adopted two years ago. The Conference, using money from performance dividends previously returned to the Conference by United Healthcare, adds an additional $516 for each clergyperson in the plan.

Clergy select from six health, three vision and three dental plans. Health plans range from the most expensive B1000 and two other “gold” plans to the least expensive “bronze” plan, the H3000. Health plans vary in premium, deductible, co-insurance (the percentage the insurance company pays for services) and prescription benefits. Regardless of the plan, the clergy receive the benefit of $9,276 annually ($773 monthly) to cover premiums. If they elect coverage exceeding that amount, the local church will withhold that excess from the pastor’s paycheck. If they select an array of health, vision and dental plans for less than the defined contribution, the excess will be contributed for the pastor to a health savings account or health reimbursement arrangement (depending on the plan selected). Both health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements roll over year-to-year.

Berneking clarified that for the first time, the defined contribution is not being tied to the B1000, the plan most selected and the most expensive, but rather to the second most expensive plan, the C2000. Clergy electing the B1000 will automatically have money withheld from their paycheck, even if they elect the most basic of dental and vision plans. Berneking and his staff explained that this change was being made for two reasons: the dividend money used by the Conference to add to the defined contribution will not last indefinitely. A day may come when an even greater portion of health insurance will need to be paid by the pastors. And second, Berneking and members of the Clergy Support Team believe that many clergy using the B1000 would financially benefit from a look at other plans. “We want to provide some incentive to at least consider other plans. Currently 75% of our clergy remain in the B1000, and we are convinced that many of those individuals would greatly benefit from a change in plan,” Berneking noted.

Finally, Finance & Administration staff also outlined a new “Addendum” form to be released in late October. The new Addendum will require pastors to complete information from their insurance elections, their 2018 Pastoral Support Form and miscellaneous payroll withholdings like voluntarily withheld income tax. The form will automatically compute taxable income needed by the local church to complete W-2 forms and paycheck information required by both the pastor and local church. Berneking said, “We know everyone dislikes more forms, but the Conference does need the information. That said, our actual hope was to create something that would provide us with needed information, while more critically offering something useful to pastors and churches. That’s why we exist. To provide help to pastors and churches.”

Pastors will participate in annual elections beginning November 1 and ending on November 16. Berneking and his staff believe it absolutely critical that pastors participate in this process. Participants may seek assistance in this through Wespath’s website at www.wespath.org and from Nate Berneking or Trudy McManus in the Conference office. All of the forms, the slides and a webinar repeat of the Roadshow may be found on the Office of Finance & Administration’s section of www.moumethodist.org.