Letter to Senate Supporting the Church Health Plan Act of 2013

September 26, 2013

Affirming our belief that health has both physical and spiritual components, we urge you, on behalf of The Episcopal Church, to support The Church Health Plan Act of 2013 (S 1164). The Church is committed to establishing a system that provides quality, cost effective, health care services for the entire population, and these services should include interdisciplinary and interprofessional components that ensure the care of the whole person.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), church-sponsored health plans do not qualify as ACA exchanges, and therefore employees on these plans are barred from accessing the tax credits they would receive through a government-run exchange. Based on income level, approximately 10% of Episcopal clergy and lay employees enrolled in The Episcopal Medical Trust are currently eligible for a meaningful premium tax credit, yet are unable to access this credit as the Trust’s health plan is not included in the ACA exchanges. S 1164 would change this inequity, allowing employees on church plans to use the same tax credits available to persons on government exchanges.

It is in the best interest of The Episcopal Church’s employees to remain enrolled in the Trust’s health insurance program, as the Trust is committed to providing plans that specifically meet the interprofessional needs of clergy and laity. The Trust created a special benefit to cover participation in “colleague groups” facilitated by clergy and licensed church counselors who work with church employees to address vocational and professional pressures. The Trust also launched a program of Wellness Summits specifically designed for clergy and lay employees to examine wellness-related issues from the unique standpoint of their profession. Commercial open market health plans fail to deliver these same services that account for the professional needs of church employees.

Should S 1164 become law, eligible clergy and lay workers could receive tax credits that provide financial incentive to enroll in plans tailored to the specific needs of their profession. Reaffirming our commitment to providing health care that meets the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of each person, we ask you to support quality, affordable health care for church employees, and to vote for The Church Health Plan Act of 2013.

Thank you for your consideration of this important bill.  

Sincerely,

The Episcopal Church