The Board of Pensions is, for the first time, allowing pastors (and other covered members) to opt out of dependent care coverage for health care in 2015. That is, if a pastor’s spouse or children have health coverage through another plan, the pastor can opt NOT to have the BOP cover the family. In addition, if a member is choosing dependent care (spouse and children) the BOP is allowing congregations and pastors to “cost-share” the additional 1.5% of effective salary.
Presbyteries across the country are creating policies and ways to deal with the change in benefits and the additional costs in a variety of ways. In September, Monmouth Presbytery, set a policy that congregations could cost-share the additional percentage for dependent care, but that the terms of call for 2015 should increase by at least the same amount (1.5%), so that no pastor’s call package for 2015 should see a net loss. New Brunswick Presbytery is voting on a COM proposal next week that would require pastor’s salary packages to include dependent health care coverage for those pastors who choose it, and to provide the equivalent of benefits to pastors who do not require the family coverage. In other words, if a pastor does not choose to cover their family under the BOP health care program, then they should get the equivalent amount of money (1.5%) added to a retirement savings account, or put towards dental insurance or supplemental life insurance, etc.
Here are some of the realities each presbytery has considered:
- The rising cost of the BOP benefits package is a huge burden to smaller congregations as well as larger congregations with many staff members covered by the plan.
- Smaller congregations may already be paying their pastors at or near the presbytery minimum which is below, or not much above, a “livable” wage in our counties.
- Health care for the whole family is imperative for the physical/mental/spiritual well-being of the pastor and the spiritual care and leadership of the congregation.
- We want to preserve “call neutrality,” that is, making sure there isn’t a financial incentive to call a pastor who does not require medical coverage for a spouse and/or children over one who does require this coverage.
The “open-enrollment” window for the Board of Pensions will close on November 14th, 2014. That’s only ten days from now, so this is what you or your congregation need to do as soon as possible:
- Pastors must decide if they are going to opt out of health care coverage for their family. If a pastor has no dependents, or if their spouse or children are covered by another policy, this must be communicated to the Board of Pensions by filing the appropriate forms available through Benefits Connect at the board of pensions website.
- Congregations and other employers must decide if they are going to share the cost of dependent health coverage. If the presbytery’s policy prohibits cost-sharing, then the employing organization will still need to fill out the cost sharing form on Benefits Connect and indicate they are NOT sharing costs.
I have received a number of emails and calls regarding the changes … two items are worth mentioning here.
If you have no spouse or family requiring coverage from the Board of Pensions … OPT out of dependent coverage for 2015. This is true if you’re single or if you have a spouse or children covered by another policy. This will give you and/or your church a 1.5% discount in dues for 2015 … this is not a decrease in dues; the dues will remain at the same level as 2014, but you will NOT be required to pay the additional 1.5% for dependent coverage.
No church or pastor can opt out of the Board of Pensions entirely, or the health care costs. If a pastor is covered under a spouse’s policy or through a previous employer, there is no cost benefit of waiving healthcare benefits through the board of pensions. All installed pastors MUST participate in the Board of Pensions. This is required through our constitution because of the community nature of our benefit plan.