Oklahoma’s proposed 2017 budget would complete a four-year transition to zero for the Active-Clergy Health Benefits Fund Apportionment.
Restated, next year the Health Apportionment that churches pay will cover only retired clergy benefits, if approved by the Annual Conference.
That does not mean the Conference is abandoning its long-time commitment to care for its active clergy and their families. It does mean a smaller Apportionment and a direct-billing process for churches with full-time active clergy.
The shift will give clarity about the actual costs of medical care today, said Treasurer Brian Bakeman.
As proposed, a church with a full-time active clergy will be billed directly for 60 percent of that person’s health insurance premium, and the clergy person will pay 40 percent.
Additionally, the Conference Health Benefits Plan will expand to five insurance choices for participants: three PPO plans and two high-deductible plans. And the pharmacy vendor will change from MaxCare to Express Scripts.
For years, the Oklahoma Conference has offered a self-funded medical plan for full-time clergy, church staff, and their dependents. Since it began, the plan has been funded by both the churches and the plan participants. Accountability is assigned to the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
As medical care costs have climbed, Conference leaders have acted to address the burden on churches and participants, noted Stephen Mitchell, director of Benefits/Personnel. For example, significant savings were achieved in 2011 by moving claims administration to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Oklahoma.
The rates for clergy always have been subsidized by the churches, Mitchell said. Prior to 2014:
• All churches paid into a Health Benefits Fund Apportionment. That amount covered one-half the cost of the premiums for active clergy and their families as well as all the cost for retired clergy.
• Active clergy paid one-half of the premium cost.
The Pre-Conference Workbook has the reports and recommendations from the Pension and Health Benefits Board and CFA, and information will be in the displays area at the meeting. — Holly McCray
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