Conference to provide grants for clergy with exorbitant health care costs

11/15/2017

The Great Plains Conference Pension and Health Benefits team has taken steps to help clergy who qualify obtain a grant to offset escalating costs for health insurance.

The team has established an emergency health grant for active clergy serving at three-quarters or full time who are eligible for the current health allowance of $15,850. The grant comes in response to inquiries from clergy members serving churches as three-quarter-time or full-time pastors who found purchasing health insurance on state exchanges far exceeded the health allowance.

The grant will not exceed $15,000 and will be provided to pay premiums that qualify for Affordable Health Care-compliant bronze-level insurance plans that exceed the current health allowance of $15,850 for the year. While support levels will be based on the cost of a bronze plan, clergy are allowed to select an ACA-compliant plan of his or her choice.

Scott Brewer, conference treasurer and director of administrative services, said the Great Plains has sufficient pension reserves to provide this support for 2018.

“But this is a temporary stop-gap for next year,” Brewer said. “The Pension and Health Benefits Team is continuing to work to find more permanent solutions for 2019 and beyond.”

The annual conference session members voted during the 2017 meetings in Grand Island to retain the health allowance instead of returning to a group health plan. Since then, Nebraska has been left with only one provider in the state’s insurance exchange, and Kansas has lost at least one provider as well.

The new grants will be approved by the Pension and Health Benefits Team based on the following requirements:

  • Households must be able to demonstrate they are not able to obtain a full-year ACA-compliant health plan, inside or outside of the healthcare.gov exchange, for a premium equal to or less than the $15,850 health allowance.
  • The clergy person must complete a needs-based application found at http://www.greatplainsumc.org/healthinsurance
If approved the applicant will receive up to $15,000 as quarterly payments to their household. Grants will be reviewed mid-year to determine if the applicant retains eligibility. This money shall be taxable, and the clergy person will be issued an IRS Form 1099 by the Great Plains Conference reporting this taxable income.

Emergency health grants will only be provided for 2018. An additional cycle for grants may be allowed for interim and mid-year appointments on a case-by-case basis.

“The challenges that we face as a conference reflect those faced by millions of people around the United States who are struggling to find affordable insurance,” Brewer said. “We can give thanks that we have adequate resources to provide this temporary aid, but I hope we, as United Methodists, will also keep this issue and the people it affects in our prayers.”

Additional information on the grant program and how people can support our clergy by making a tax-deductible contribution to the grant program will be shared as it becomes available.
 
Contact Todd Seifert, communications director, at tseifert@greatplainsumc.org.


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