Information sessions give update on health insurance


The Oregon-Idaho Board of Pensions, which is responsible for overseeing conference health insurance plans, is moving forward on a revised set of health insurance offerings for clergy and lay employees in the conference. In 2016, they surveyed church leaders and plan participants about levels of service and controlling costs. At the 2016 Annual Conference the board shared a proposal for revising insurance coverage through an option of choices known as HealthFlex Exchange. Insurance costs for the conference have steadily risen. The cost ratio has exceeded 100% for the last four years with the 2016 ratio being 155%, up from the 148% of 2015.

According to Chair of the Board of Pensions, Rev. Danna Drum, the board is making these changes because, “We want to offer more options for participants and more predictability for health insurance budgets in local ministry settings while also trying to control health care costs. Having more health insurance options allows participants to select the plans and coverage that are right for them.” Conference Benefits Officer, Rev. Dan Wilson-Fey adds, “For those who are healthy and want to buy a program with even less coverage than is currently offered, the savings that they will gain could be saved and used for future medical expenses.”

To help participants and annual conference members understand the new plans and their impact on local church budgets, the board is sponsoring a series of information sessions around the conference.

The new plan offers a range of choices for plan participants. Currently participants can choose from two plans. In the new exchange, participants will have a fixed defined contribution of money to apply to one of six plans. In some cases, participants will pay an additional cost; in other options, some of the contribution will be placed in a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) for use by the participant. In addition, participants will have the option to add on enhanced vision coverage and dental insurance.

Wilson-Fey points to those options as the reason for wanting to have face-to-face time with people. “We know there will be lots of questions, so we want to give a short presentation, and then open the sessions up for those questions.” He adds, “And it’s not just about the insurance itself. We want people to understand the impact for local churches.” Churches will continue to pay a blended rate regardless of which plan participants choose, but after several years without changes to that $1,250 per month rate, it will be increased for 2018 by 3.5% to $1,294.

Workshop locations and times are:

Tuesday, May 9th, 7 p.m.
Oregon City United Methodist Church
18955 South End Road
Oregon City, OR  97045
Wednesday, May 10th, 10 a.m.
Hillsboro United Methodist Church
168 NE 8th Avenue
Hillsboro, OR 97124
Monday, May 15th, 1:00 p.m.
Twin Falls United Methodist Church
360 Shoshone St. E.
Twin Falls, ID 83301
Monday, May 15th, 6:30 p.m.
Boise First United Methodist Church
717 N. 11th St.
Boise, ID 83702
Tuesday, May 16th, 7 p.m.
Newman United Methodist Church
132 NE 'B' Street
Grants Pass, OR 97526
Wednesday, May 17th, 10 a.m.
Eugene First United Methodist Church
1376 Olive Street
Eugene, OR 97401
At the Annual Conference Session
June 15, 8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Overton Room, Red Lion on the River
Register Now →

In the HealthFlex Exchange (which is not the same as public exchanges used by the Affordable Care Act) plan participants will have six medical plans to choose from. These will be paired with prescription drug plans, and three choices of vision and dental coverage. Cost to the participant will vary, depending on the plan choices they make. Familiar names like United Health Care, OptimRx, United Behavorial Health and Vision Service Plan (VSP) are still part of the offerings. The popular wellness program will also be continued for participants in all plans.

Available plans include:
  • A traditional preferred provider organization (PPO) plan with co-payments for office visits
  • Two consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) that allow you to use or save funds from a health reimbursement account (HRA)
  • Three qualified high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) giving you the option to also contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA).
These options, called the HealthFlex Exchange are managed by Wespath (formerly the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits) and are part of a shared insurance pool with 27 other HealthFlex annual conferences. The plans cover nearly 300 clergy and lay employees and are supported by payments from nearly 200 churches, the annual conference budget, and a health insurance reserve fund.

Additional information will be in the Board of Pensions report to Annual Conference (which contains the actual recommendations) and the Health and Pension information page on the conference website.

Photo (c) Dan Wiedbraunk used with permission via Flickr CC license