News and Views

Board assists clergy with affordable health care

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Providing outstanding benefits and health care to clergy in this season of pandemic and stress continues to be a priority for the BWC’s Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, reported the board’s chair, the Rev. Cary James.

This year is the Conference’s fifth year with HealthFlex, which offers participants six different medical benefits plans. The majority of clergy are opting for plans the pay 80 percent of overall health care costs.

In 2023, after five years at $860/month, the local church rate will now increase by 3.5% to $890/month, James reported. This rate increase will offset a 3.8% premium increase that Wespath has announced in the 2023 premiums. Participants will also see an increase as medical rates will increase by $7-10 per month and dental rates will increase by $1-15 per month.

Covering the cost of clergy health care has proven a challenge for a handful of local churches. In 2021, local church arrearages increased by 15 percent to slightly more than $1.1 million overall. The Board continues to keep a close eye on the mounting arrearages, James said, and is responding as appropriate.

In the arena of retiree medical benefits, James reported that as medical costs continue to increase, the Board is providing a 5 percent increase in the 2023 HRA for retirees who use the Via Benefits program. The 5 percent increase will set the HRA amount for clergy with 30 years of service at $3,909. This 5% increase comes on the heels of the 6% increase to the 2022 HRA as the Board is taking significant steps to help the retirees medical benefit keep pace with the increasing cost of medical premiums.

James, who serves as pastor at Jones Memorial UMC, also reminded all active clergy that “opting out of Social Security impacts your BWC benefits.” Eligibility for retiree medical benefits at retirement and disability benefits through the Comprehensive Protection Plan are dependent on clergy participation in Social Security and Medicare throughout your active service within the church, he said.

James concluded the Board’s report by encouraging pastors to take care of themselves – physically and emotionally and to make use of the wide array of mental health resources available to them.