Changes are being proposed to the health care benefit for retirees of the Louisiana Conference.
These changes are both needed and encouraged from experts in the healthcare field as well as a healthcare taskforce that was established and supported by the Conference Benefits office and Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey. The changes are detailed below in this web site and will be up for a vote in June at Annual Conference.
The Louisiana Conference is thankful for each and every one of our clergy and their families who have faithfully served the Church for many years. You have surely earned our commitment to providing a life time health benefits offering for clergy and their spouses who retire with significant years of service to the Louisiana Conference.
This commitment extends to make every effort to reduce costs without shifting costs to the retirees.
At the same time, we commit to provide personalized assistance, advice and decision-making support should changes be implemented.
And finally, we commit to ensure no participant is left behind.
As it stands now, we are a self-funded insurance fund which means our risk pool is limited to the retirees in our Conference. Health Care experts warn us that the accumulated postretirement benefit obligation (amount owed) is $33,000,000 versus designated assets for retiree health benefits of $6,000,000. This is a critical situation as it means our funds will be exhausted in 5-7 years. Together, we must act now to ensure that all retirees, current and future, are not left behind.
“I knew something had to be done,” says Sandy O’Brien, Executive Director of Administrative Matters of the Louisiana Conference. “We’ve seen this coming and no one wanted to see the fund simply run out of money. We want to honor the commitment but to do that, we needed to find a solution.”
And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.
1 Peter 4:10
As much as the current financial outlook was grim, assets of just $6 million compared to a potential $33 million commitment, retirees in the Louisiana Conference began approaching Theresa Stevens, Assistant Benefits Officer, and O’Brien with concerns over the existing plan's value.
“We began hearing from retirees who would come to us and say, ‘this is expensive,’” recalls O’Brien. “They’d say to us, ‘you know, I can go out into the private health care marketplace and get something less expensive’. We had two competing forces colliding at the same time. We had the Willis Towers Watson analysis saying we owed $33 million along with word from new retirees who were getting into the system saying, ‘this really isn't working’”
O’Brien approached Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey with a simple request – re-activating a healthcare task force.
A special Health Care Task Force began meeting in the Spring of 2018. These faithful United Methodists from the Louisiana Conference engaged various legal and health care industry professionals to help develop multiple potential solutions for our retirees’ health plan.
Omer Davis is the Chair of the Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and a member of the Health Care Task Force Committee.
Davis explains the mission was to address the huge unfunded medical coverage liability caused by a $500,000 per year loss in excess of premiums. Davis underscored that the committee wanted to solve the situation by not simply increasing premiums and/or reducing coverage to our participants.
"While it was quite obvious that the vast majority of our retirees could find better coverage in the Medicare marketplace, we were very concerned about those few participants who had extremely expensive prescription drug needs," says Davis. "The plan that we developed with the help of Towers Watson consultants allows each person to choose the best Medicare coverage for themselves with the help of a Via Benefits representative. We put the current premium of $299 plus an additional $100 per participant subsidy back in your pocket to spend how you want."
In summary, the committee committed to:
The primary focus was to match our assets with benefits offered, but not to shift costs to retirees. Prayerful consideration and emphasis was placed on providing personalized assistance to each retiree with advice and decision-making support, and ensuring that no participant would be in a less favorable position than under the current plan.
The Health Care Task Force is proposing forming a strategic partnership in a “Private Exchange” for participants through Via Benefits, under Wespath management. All participants will have access to multiple Medicare supplement or Advantage plans under one-on-one consultation and assistance.
Additionally, participants will receive an annual $1,200 Health Reimbursement Arrangement, plus access to a grant under a Catastrophic Prescription plan of up to $7,000 per year per participant, ensuring we leave no one behind.
It is estimated almost 100% of participants will be in an equal or better cash position. In fact, they will be able change plans from year to year, if their needs change.
The savings, which will be significant, will be due to moving our participants to a larger risk pool and spreading the high medical costs over a larger number of people.
Via Benefits’ licensed benefit advisors will help you select Medicare supplemental coverage that fits your needs.
Via Benefits’ benefit advisors have helped more than 700,000 eligible participants (including those from over 25 United Methodist Annual Conferences in partnership with Wespath Benefits and Investments) compare the Medicare supplemental plan options available in order to choose plans that best meet their individual needs.
These benefit advisors do not sell products, nor are they paid on commission—they are available to assist you in finding the Medicare supplemental plan that works best for you.
This will be a long process of educating and communicating to our Annual Conference. We plan to hold information tours in each of the districts and stand ready to answer any and all questions or concerns.
Please be on the lookout for much more information.
In the meantime, we want to underscore our commitment to care - we will communicate with compassion, acknowledge and take action, respect and reassure, empathize and explain