The Affordable Health Care Act has caused much confusion around the country. The confusion has certainly infiltrated our churches and especially my office. It has been difficult to add clarity to the conversation because others often interpret our remarks as a vote for health care reform or a vote against. However, we must understand the legislation because it is currently the law of the land and we must follow the law as closely as possible.
Recently, I sent some information to our churches to assist in complying with the notification portion of the ACA. This letter is a requirement of the law that says every employer must notify employees of benefits and options offered by the ACA. This brought up the question: Who is the employer--the local church, or the annual conference? This question has not been decided by the IRS as of this date. Because of this lack of clarity, we made the decision that all churches with any amount of payroll must send the notification letter. Penalties will not be accrued if the notice is sent needlessly but penalties for noncompliance can be substantial.
Another item of interest is exchanges. Since the church pays the premium for our self-funded health care plan, clergy and laity on the plan cannot apply for assistance or tax benefits from the federal government. If the exchange option is taken, the church is still obligated to pay the full premium for all full time clergy. Any federal assistance would have to be repaid if the exchange option is taken since we provide health care insurance for all our clergy.
We are working with our partners at GCFA and the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to understand and comply with the ACA. As we receive information, we will pass this on to our churches and clergy so that we can be in full compliance of IRS regulations concerning the ACA.
Please call my office if you have any questions about the ACA. We will continue to list resources on the Conference website that will allow you to research and understand provisions of the law.