Wellness plan earns discounts


By Holly McCray

Dear pastor, Thank you for praying that we get well soon. Please do the same yourself. Sincerely, Your Church Family

The Oklahoma Conference has started implementing a comprehensive wellness program.

All full-time active clergy members are eligible to participate. For each one, the program is designed to improve his or her health and to save that person money on medical insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014. The clergy member’s premium can be discounted by as much as $60 per month.

The program’s greater goal is to reduce costs for the Conference’s self-funded clergy health plan. In 2014, that plan will command 26 percent of the Apportionment for local churches ($4.37 million of the $16.66 million budget). This total does not include the individual clergyperson’s portion of costs.

Deadline is Oct. 14 to have wellness results into Bravo Wellness, the administrator of the program. If you participated in the health screening at Annual Conference in May, you already are signed up.

Clergy members should be alert for a "results letter" from Bravo Wellness, soon being sent via U.S. Mail.

The letter will show the discounts for which you qualify, as determined by Bravo, for your monthly premium in 2014. The letter also will detail alternatives and an appeals process. Bravo allows 30 days from the date on that letter to file a request for an alternative or an appeal.

The wellness initiative was rolled out at the 2013 Annual Conference. A total of 580 people completed the annual health screening during the days of the conference, perhaps a sign of enthusiasm for this new effort. In past years, fewer than 500 participated.

Delegates voted to implement the program, which was presented by the Wellness Committee of the Conference’s Board of Pension & Health Benefits. The Benefits Office also distributed email messages and made calls to promote awareness. You can find more information on the Conference website.

Enrollment in the wellness program is annually, explained Stephen Mitchell, Conference Benefits Officer. Discounts in place in January will apply throughout 2014.

The wellness program covers six categories. For each goal met, a participant can receive a $10 premium discount per month.

These are the goals.

  • Participate in the health screening during Annual Conference OR undergo an annual physical by your doctor.

Reports from the health screening already were provided to Bravo.

To sign up for the wellness program if you did not participate in the screening, you must request an enrollment form from the Conference Benefits Office, give it to your physician at the time of your individual exam, and direct your physician to submit it directly to Bravo by the Oct. 14 deadline.

  • Use of tobacco/nicotine: negative
  • Blood pressure of 140/90 or lower
  • Glucose of <99 or HbAlc level of <5.6
  • LDL cholesterol level of <130
  • Body Mass Index of <30.

The 2013 Clergy Health Survey Report compared United Methodist clergy to a U.S. population group with similar demographics. The survey was not limited to Oklahomans. More than 1,600 UM clergy responded online to 100 questions about five aspects of health (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial) and about their vocation.

The results? UM clergy have a higher percentage of physical concerns, including obesity, high cholesterol, borderline high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes. They suffer from depression nearly twice as often as the general population.

Almost half of them reported high stress levels due to their jobs.

"Answering God’s call shouldn’t be bad for your health," Kathy Gilbert wrote in July in a United Methodist News Service story.

Oklahoma’s wellness program is one way that eligible clergy can take steps to living healthier—benefitting not only themselves but also their families, congregations, and Church peers.

"People have to start being conscious of what it costs" the Church to insure its clergy, noted Debbie Ware, assistant in the Benefits Office.

The Oklahoma Conference Journal states: "Our Health Benefits Plan operates in a financially conservative manner while, at the same time, trying to meet the needs of our participants ... The Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits has established this plan to keep faith with our churches and participants, who clearly understand that we intend to collect only what we need to pay expenses. [The Plan] is a self-funded medical and prescription plan … not a form of entitlement."

Learn more at www.okumc.org/benefits. View the 2013 Clergy Health Survey Report at www.gbophb.org/cfh/.

Contact Mitchell at smitchell@okumc.org, 405-530-2063; or Ware at 405-530-2069, dware@okumc.org.

(Article includes news from Hark!, General Board of Pension & Health Benefits, July 2013)

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