Annual Conference Group Health Care Plans
¶ 639. Conference Board of Pensions
7. Annual Conference Group Health Care Plans—The board or other agency authorized by the annual conference shall sponsor or participate in a group health care plan, which local churches may adopt for their full-time appointed clergy, or which the annual conference may require its local churches to adopt, that covers the annual conference’s own full-time clergy employees and its full-time lay employees in the United States. Clergy appointed to an appointment extending the ministry of the local United Methodist church under ¶ 344.1, except those serving in positions for which the annual conference is responsible under ¶ 344.1a(1), and lay employees who are not employees of the annual conference, such as lay employees of local churches and lay employees of district and jurisdictional offices, need not be covered under the preceding sentence, but may be covered by the local church or other common-law employer adopting the plan, at the discretion of the annual conference. For the purpose of this paragraph, group health care plan shall mean a health insurance plan, group health care plan, or multiple-employer health care plan that covers benefits for major medical and hospitalization expenses. The board or authorized agency may recommend additional eligibility for its group health care plan in its discretion.
Alternatively, in the event that federal law or state law governing health care plans and health insurance establishes coverage options for those persons without employer-provided coverage that ensure access, regardless of health status or condition, to affordable coverage through health insurance exchanges, connectors, single-payer systems, or other mechanisms, the board may cease maintaining its group health care plan to the extent such coverage is available to its clergy and lay employees. In such event, the board nevertheless shall provide continued administrative support (e.g., through cafeteria plans, employer-adopted exchange plans, or health reimbursement arrangements) for participation in the exchanges or alternative systems, and recommend an appropriate and adequate level of Church financial support (e.g., in the form of local church, employer or annual conference contributions toward premiums, additional compensation, or apportionments) of full-time clergy and fulltime lay employees of the conference toward the purchase of such coverage through these alternative mechanisms to the extent individuals’ coverage may not be subsidized by government agencies, particularly considering (a) the tax advantages of employer-provided financial support toward health care coverage, and (b) the reduced availability of government subsidies for clergy whose compensation is near or above denominational average compensation.
In addition, the board or authorized agency shall provide and maintain health and wellness programs for the annual conference’s full-time clergy and full-time lay employees.
(Excerpted from the 2012 Book of Discipline)