Federal Health Care Bill Accepts Lutheran Health Plan

10/25/1996 12:00:00 AM


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
will subject all group health plans, including church plans, to
federal rules governing access and portability.  "This is good
news for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's
group health plan and other church employees not covered under
the plan," said John G. Kapanke, president of the ELCA Board of
Pensions.  "On the surface this could appear as government
intrusion, but in reality it will ensure equal employment
opportunities for those people who enter or leave church
service."  The act will generally limit pre-existing condition
periods to 12 months, with month-for-month credit given to
employees who change health care coverage and were covered under
another policy.  Pregnancy will no longer be considered a
pre-existing condition.  Employees who previously declined health
coverage will now have more opportunities to change their minds.
The act also makes it more difficult for people to be denied
health coverage because of their medical histories, so long as
they were receiving health coverage.  Kapanke chairs the Church
Alliance, a coalition of church pension board executives who act
on behalf of church pension and welfare benefit programs.  The
alliance worked closely with the U.S. Congress to ensure the act
safeguarded the unique characteristics of church health plans.
These church plans will not be subject to taxes and noncompliance
penalties that may apply to other plans.  Much of the act will be
implemented in 1998.  The Church Alliance represents more than
260,000 clergy and 114,000 lay workers employed by churches,
synagogues and church ministry organizations throughout the
United States.

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312)
380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312)
380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG


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