The United Methodist Church will soon implement changes to its employee insurance coverage that will increase out-of-pocket expenses due to the Affordable Care Act.
In late August the Board of Directors for the UMC General Council on Finance and Administration agreed to revise the insurance coverage for bishops and general church employees.
A spokesperson for the staff of GCFA explained to The Christian Post what the new changes, slated to begin next year, will look like.
"Plan participants covered under the general agencies of The United Methodist Church benefits program will be offered 'choices' in their healthcare coverage," said the spokesperson.
"The medical plan options range from plans which include co-pays and deductibles to a high deductible health plan with a health savings account."
The staff spokesperson also explained why the UMC did not seek some kind of exemption from the federal healthcare law, since it is a distinctly religious entity.
"The Affordable Care Act applies 'shared responsibility' requirements to all 'applicable large employers,'" continued the spokesperson.
"The definition of applicable large employer includes, in effect, all employers with 50 or more employees, regardless of status of the employer (governmental unit, private employer, religious or church employer, etc)."
Passed in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been a source of controversy.
Proponents have argued that the law has successfully expanded healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans, while critics have noted certain problems with its implementation.
On Aug. 28, UMC GCFA leadership agreed in a conference call to revise health insurance standards for employees, which will increase costs for the general agencies of the denomination.
"While there is an increased cost to the General Agencies, it is within the assumptions used in preparation of the 2017-2020 quadrennial budget," stated a GCFA press release.
"Due to the rising costs of health claims for those covered under the plan, the board heard recommendations on needed changes to the plan. Based on claims history in 2014 and 2015, overall costs are slated to go up 15 percent in 2016."
Benjamin Wakana, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, told CP about the limits on out-of-pocket costs for employees.
"The maximum out-of-pocket costs for any Marketplace plan for 2015 are $6,600 for an individual plan and $13,200 for a family plan," explained Wakana.
"This means when the amount you've paid in deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance reaches these limits, the insurance company pays 100 percent of your costs for covered care. Even if you choose a catastrophic coverage plan, your out-of-pocket costs shouldn't exceed this limit."
The expected increase in costs associated with the UMC's adherence to the ACA comes after the Church's advocacy wing expressed support for the healthcare law.
In June 2012, the UMC General Board of Church & Society joined several other faith groups in signing a joint statement praising the U.S. Supreme Court's upholding of the law, and calling on Congress to cease efforts to repeal it.
"Since 2008 we have been guided in our work by 'A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care,' an interfaith statement that envisions a U.S. healthcare system that offers health, wholeness, and human dignity for all because it is inclusive, affordable, accessible, and accountable," read the 2012 statement.
"In March 2010, we supported the passage of the Affordable Care Act and still believe that it is an important first step in moving us toward this moral vision. So we applaud the U.S. Supreme Court justices for upholding the law."
UMC employees will be given the opportunity to make their healthcare coverage selections during an open enrollment period scheduled to occur from Oct. 26 to Nov. 11.