ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 15, 2012
Cost adjustments to ELCA benefits program lower than national average
MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Trustees of Portico Benefit Services approved 2013 cost adjustments to the benefits program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that fall below the national average of health premiums. At their Aug. 2-4 meeting here, Portico's board of trustees approved an overall cost increase of between 1 percent and 1.5 percent for most ELCA congregations and participating employers.
The ELCA benefits program offers a bundled set of health, retirement, disability and survivor benefits designed to help pastors, rostered lay leaders, employees and their families to live well.
While large U.S. employers expect health premiums to rise by 7 percent in 2013, ELCA employers will only pay 4 percent more for health benefits and some of that cost will be offset by reduced rates for ELCA disability and survivor benefits.
"Containing our overall rate increases for ELCA benefits is a significant win for congregations when costs elsewhere are skyrocketing," the Rev. Jeff Thiemann, CEO of Portico Benefit Services, said.
"Our board of trustees knows that healthy leaders lead to healthy ministries. Keeping costs down for congregations while at the same time giving our members quality benefits are top priorities at Portico," said Thiemann.
A modest increase in the cost of ELCA health benefits -- the largest portion of most employers' benefits budget -- will be partially offset by a decrease in the ELCA disability and survivor benefit costs. Specifically, the health plan will increase, the disability and survivor plan will decrease and there will be no change to the retirement plan and retiree support, according to Portico.
Rates for 2013 are expected to cover projected claims and expenses for the ELCA's self-insured health, disability and survivor benefit plans, while keeping reserves within target ranges.
Brad Joern, vice president of Portico's products and services, said that utilization of ELCA health benefits demonstrated "a high degree of plan member engagement," citing that 71 percent of members and spouses with ELCA-primary coverage completed the Mayo Clinic health assessment in the first half of 2012.
Joern attributed the 2013 disability and survivor rate decreases to positive investment performance and favorable claims experience. Employer contribution rates are expressed as a percentage of defined compensation.
For members who are retired, on leave from call or otherwise continuing ELCA benefits coverage at their own expense, the following rates will increase in 2013: ELCA Medicare-primary, ELCA primary for members age 27-60, 60-64 and 26 and under. There will be no change to the plan for lump-sum survivor coverage for members on leave from call and disability coverage for interim pastors.
Later this month, Portico Benefit Services will provide updated online calculators to help employers determine their actual 2013 costs. Members will receive details about new health benefit offerings this fall.
In other action, Portico's trustees:
+ are working with ELCA leaders to examine and adjust the ELCA Philosophy of Benefits, a collection of statements and principles intended to guide benefits decisions. The board of trustees and the ELCA Church Council are expected to vote on the Philosophy of Benefits in November.
+ approved a new fitness center discount for ELCA-primary and ELCA Medicare-primary health plan members, along with the opportunity for employers to earn a 2 percent discount on their 2013 health contributions.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com