Clergy retirees to get private marketplace option for healthcare needs

By Jessica Brodie

Retired pastors will get a little more choice when it comes to healthcare benefits next year.

That’s the word from the Rev. David Anderson, pensions and health benefits officer, who said the South Carolina Conference is rolling out the Retiree Benefits Choice plan in 2016 as a replacement for the old economy plan. The conference will still offer the standard Medicare primary plan to retirees if desired; they are only replacing the economy plan.

With the Retiree Benefits Choice plan, the conference will chip in $200/month toward healthcare in the private marketplace for a retired pastor; with help from a healthcare coach through AmWins, the pastor will select the proper insurance coverage to suit his or her own needs and supply the remaining monthly premium.

“If they select a plan that’s only $275, then it’s $200 from us and only $75 from them. If they select a plan that’s $500, then it’s $200 from us and $300 from them,” Anderson explained.

The arrangement should give the retiree more choice and hopefully lower premium payments, which can be highly attractive to those on a fixed income.

“We’re in much better shape than a lot of other conferences,” said Herman Lightsey, chair of the Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. “As I told the retirees when they gathered recently, with the Affordable Care Act everything is constantly changing, but we’ll continue our efforts to make affordable pensions and benefits available—not only for retirees, but to the current ones coming in.”

The 2016 plan will be officially approved at Annual Conference in June.

No direct billing increase but 6.5% increase for health premiums

The rest of the pensions and health benefits changes will be “really vanilla,” Anderson said. Direct billing pensions are exactly the same for 2016, and the conference health plan will see an increase of 6.5 percent in health benefit premiums.

“That’s pretty good considering our loss ratio which, between claims funding and payments, was 112 percent,” Anderson said about the premiums increase.

Thanks to a cost-sharing arrangement among South Carolina, the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and other annual conferences, costs are able to stay relatively low in comparison to what was spent.

“The majority of the large claims are based on average age—57 or 58, which is pretty high for a health plan,” Anderson said. “The older population has more claims and more expensive claims. We do all we can to mitigate that through health and wellness programs and screenings, but that’s where we are.”

For comprehensive information on pensions and health benefits changes going before Annual Conference in June, see pages 43-50 of the pre-conference materials (online at

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