By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE— South Carolina United Methodist active clergy and lay employees now have a bevy of health care choices on their plate thanks to a new plan lineup approved at Annual Conference yesterday.
Beginning in January 2018, the conference is switching to a new program called the HealthFlex Exchange, a private insurance exchange administered by The United Methodist Church’s Wespath. The plan features six HealthFlex medical plans (plus optional dental and vision plans).
The Rev. David Anderson, conference pension and health benefits officer, said rising health costs necessitated a change, but the conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits didn’t want to just do away with conference plans and send participants to the state or federal marketplace. The Healthflex Exchance is “the best fit for our conference,” Anderson said.
“We believe it offers benefits to the church and conference, as well as to the participant,” Anderson said. “We can continue to offer group coverage and not terminate the plans due to unsustainable cost. You’ll be able to choose a plan that really fits your needs.”
The Rev. Chris Lollis, chair of the BPHB, said the extra choices will be helpful overall.
“We realize insurance is not one size fits all,” Lollis told the body. “The board feels this is a win-win for both clergy and lay employees.”
All six of the plans feature the same health plan partners (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, OptumRx, United Behavioral Health, VSP for vision, with the addition of Cigna for optional dental coverage), and there will be no need to change doctors, hospitals or pharmacies.
In September, there will be conference workshops and a benefit counselor available to help participants make their insurance choices. Elections will be made in November, and the new benefits go live in January.
“We’re not going to leave you alone to make your decisions,” Anderson said. “The most expensive plan is not the right fit for everyone.”
One option is a traditional PPO plan with co-pays; it is the most expensive option for monthly premiums but offers the lowest deductible and out-of-pocket costs. Two options are consumer-driven health plans with moderately priced premiums with moderate deductible and out-of-pocket costs and allow participants to use a health reimbursement account. Three options are high-deductible health plans that allow participant to use a health savings account; they feature the lowest-priced premiums. Pricing for all ranges from $71/month (participant only) to $865/month (full-family PPO).
Also at Annual Conference, the body adopted pension changes: an increase in the past service rate that raises the past service rate for pre-1982 pensions from $765 per service year to $781; a housing exclusion resolution for retired and disabled clergy; and an increase in direct billing for the clergy retirement security program from $492 to $497/month, the first increase since 2014.