Health premiums to jump 12.4 percent

By Jessica Brodie

South Carolina will see a hefty rate increase for healthcare next year in a plan that goes before Annual Conference in June.

The South Carolina Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits is proposing a 12.4 percent increase for plan participants and a 15 percent increase for churches for 2017. The increase comes on the heels of several years of sizable health claims across The United Methodist Church, which ended 2015 with a loss ratio of 142 percent. South Carolina had one of the highest increases and was a big part of that ratio, said the Rev. David Anderson, conference pensions and health benefits officer.

“It’s the aging of the population and unhealthy lifestyles,” Anderson said, noting South Carolina had a huge spike in prescription drug costs and a host of health issues, including joint degeneration, heart disease, diabetes, chronic renal failure and hypertension. The increase will cost churches $127 a month more over what they paid in 2015, Anderson said. Last year, churches were billed $839/month. Next year, they will be billed $966/month.

The conference board will be studying alternate health plans for 2018.

“The thing people don’t realize as a church is we’re having the same issues as the populace in general,” said Herman Lightsey, chair of the conference board. “As we get better medicines and better techniques, all those things cost money, and you know, today there’s a prescription for everything. Just watch TV at night if you don't believe it.”

Lightsey said the board is doing its best to provide full, affordable care for its clergy and staff.

“South Carolina has pretty well stayed ahead of things, and we continue to look to see if there is something else we can do to provide for our folks and do it economically, and we’ll continue to do that,” Lightsey said. “But that’s a reality of insurance as we demand more, want more and people live longer.”

The conference had $9 million in claims for 2015 and paid out an average of $1,927 in prescription drugs per member (compared to the $1,414 average for the whole denomination), Anderson said.

The plan will be up for approval by the Annual Conference when the body gathers at the Florence Civic Center June 5-8.

For comprehensive information on pensions and health benefits changes going before Annual Conference in June, see pages 32-38 of the pre-conference materials (online at

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