Beginning January 2014, the heart of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be implemented. It is the responsibility of all employers, including congregations, to learn about the ACA and to fully prepare themselves to make thoughtful decisions regarding employee benefits, including health insurance. Our shared Unitarian Universalist (UU) values, including our commitment to economic justice for staff, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Fair Compensation practices, congregational finances, and the realities of the local labor market will no doubt guide these important decisions.
We urge you to review available information now, and to remain engaged. Sign up to receive the latest information. You don’t need to be a participating congregation in our health plan to receive updates.
ACA will require most individuals to be covered by health insurance beginning January, 2014. Individuals and their families must secure health insurance, if not through their employer, then either through state Health Insurance Exchanges or another source. The Exchanges will be operational in each state and managed by the state, or the federal government, or by a state/federal partnership.;Plans available on the exchanges are unlikely to provide family coverage to same-sex couples or to offer any of the other “values-based” benefits the UUA Health Plan offers.
Because we believe that all of our congregations have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees, none will be required to “play or pay” – that is, offer health insurance or pay a penalty as provided in the regulations. Instead, congregational discussions will likely focus on whether to continue to provide employer-paid health insurance, and if so, the richness of the benefit package(s) that should be offered to congregational staff.
We anticipate that most congregations will keep their current insurance arrangements for 2014, until the functionality, pricing, and stability of the Exchanges are firmly established.
The UUA Health Plan is the embodiment of our collective UU Values. Our plan provides coverage (e.g. the hearing aid benefit or the childhood learning disability benefit) rarely seen in commercial insurance policies. And from the beginning, we have recognized same sex partnerships and other domestic partnership arrangements.
The UUA Health Plan is able to minimize expenses, since there are no high salaries for our staff, no extensive advertising, and no profit-sharing with shareholders. Perhaps most important of all, Jim Sargent and Patti Angelina, our Health Plan staff, are available to solve the inevitable billing problems or benefit questions when they arise. We are committed to ensuring our congregations and their participating staff an affordable plan, quality benefits, and problem-free administration.
By late summer 2013, it will be clear whether or not the Exchanges will be able to go live with marketing, and whether or not their startup will have regional gaps, and we will keep you abreast of those developments. We will continue to analyze the reporting requirements under ACA, and to the extent they affect you as small employers, we will alert you to the compliance requirements. And as always, we in the Office of Church Staff Finances will be available to you for consultation as your congregation wrestles with determining the right approach in the face of conflicting and incomplete information.
Significant unknowns remain as we wait for the IRS, DOL, and HHS to issue an estimated additional 25,000 pages of regulations.
This information is provided to assist congregational leaders, religious professionals, and other staff in their decision-making. However, the staff members of the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances are not attorneys or accounting professionals, and we encourage congregations to seek the services of their own advisers in dealing with unusual cases or individual circumstances.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 26, 2013.
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