Funding Fairly, Competitively, But Not Creating Burdens

3/20/2012

The 2012 Mississippi Annual Conference in June will face hard business decisions on two major subjects, both of which relate to caring for those who have ministered to us, and who continue to serve us so well.


First, there will be a decision on how we keep promises made to those who have served us in the past and for their surviving spouses. Each of us owes a debt of gratitude to them who taught us to take baby steps in the faith.


In my own faith life, I remember especially Reverends J. O. Dowdle, Milton J. Peden, (Dr.) Felix Sutphin, and Rev. Doug Hardin, who nurtured me in understanding God’s love, helped me explore a call to preach, guided my education at Wood College and officiated at our wedding, and provided loving support during my Dad’s last days. I am sure you have your own favorite memories of those who have ministered to you.


The 2012 Annual Conference will decide how to fund the Pre 82 pension program, crippled by the 2008 market downturn. We must raise approximately $750,000 a year through 2021 to keep adequately funded the promises of pension benefits we made. The Conference Board of Pension is bringing legislation to extend the direct billing process to the churches not currently paying into the pension system. This will produce an estimated $450,000. That money will go to fund the Pre-82 plan. By doing this, all churches will be paying based on the salary of their appointed clergy. This will bring all appointments onto a level playing field. The Council on Finance and Administration has added $300,000 to the conference Mission Shares to make up the difference that the billing leaves short.


The second decision relates to our health insurance program, offered to the active as well as the retired ministers of our conference. We must see that our plan is competitive to our participants, while not being so overly generous that it places a burden on the local churches.


The Conference Board of Medical Benefits is bringing plan changes which will put the benefits for our active participants more competitively in line by adjusting the deductibles and co-pays. In doing so we will be able to leave the rates the same in 2013.


The Board is bringing a fully insured Medicare Part F look-alike supplement which provides full coverage for Medicare covered costs and a prescription drug plan that is the equivalent of the current plan. Currently the participant pays premiums and deductibles on the Medicare plan and on the conference plan. The premium cost of the plan for the participant remains the same through 2013 while taking away all of the deductibles that were being paid by the participants to the providers.


Phase 4 of the direct bill process for Health Insurance is being addressed at the 2012 Annual Conference. The plan has been refined and will be kept in the Mission Shares using the same formula base but allocated on two line items in a different manner to the churches. The first line will be to all churches and will benefit the retiree supplement promise made. The second line item will be only to churches being served by a full time clergy person.


While these are hard decisions, it is the Board’s and CFA’s belief that these together are necessary for affordable and sustainable plans. When coupled together, the overall Mission Share cost for heath insurance is reduced while funding those pension promises made to our beloved pastors whom we so fondly remember and for whom we wish to continue to care.


More detailed information on these two issues can be found on the conference’s web site, mississippi-umc.org. There you can watch a video discussion by leaders of the Pensions board, and a video discussion by the Medical Benefits board, and can study “frequently asked questions” about each of them, so you can make informed decisions.


David Stotts
Conference Treasurer