It’s working!

The Corinthian Plan begins third year of health coverage for pastors and church workers

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By Cindy Snider

(Mennonite Church USA)—When congregations renew their enrollment this fall in The Corinthian Plan, they will be included in a success story that leaders had hoped, prayed and worked for when the Mennonite Church USA-sponsored health coverage plan for pastors and other church workers launched three years ago.

“The first three years have provided a strong platform for us. Things are going well, and we’re upbeat and encouraged. We’ve had a good beginning,” says Keith Harder, director of the plan that now represents 70 percent of Mennonite Church USA congregations with eligible employees.

With a mandate from Mennonite Church USA delegates in 2007 to find a way to provide all pastors with basic health coverage, denominational leaders began refining a plan that reflected the biblical call for mutual aid and fair balance. The Corinthian Plan became fully operational in 2010. The numbers tell part of the plan’s success: 450 participating congregations, 75 congregations that have received assistance through the plan’s Fair Balance Fund, and 25 church plants with benefits for their planters and pastors.

Participating congregations have contributed more than $1 million over the past three years to the Fair Balance Fund that helps smaller congregations with the cost of providing coverage for their pastors.

Juanita Nuñez, co-pastor with her husband Eligio Nuñez at Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer, Apopka, Fla., and former moderator of Iglesia Menonita Hispana (IMH), shared her gratitude for Mennonite Church USA’s action in bringing The Corinthian Plan into effect.

“Along with other Hispanic leaders, we were praying for a solution for them and their congregations that could not afford health insurance,” she says. “There is added peace of mind that if something unexpected were to occur, we would not have the additional financial burden as another obstacle to deal with. We praise God, who through The Corinthian Plan, still shows His great love and daily care for our lives.”

Nita Nikkel, chair of Western District Conference’s Immigration Task Force, says the plan ties into immigration issues. “Many of Mennonite Church USA’s church plants consist of recent immigrants,” she says. “It helps us to share in God’s mission right here at home by taking care of our pastors. We are all learning more about the way of Jesus as all parts of the church practice giving and receiving together in unity.”

Congregations that have not signed up for the plan can still participate, says Harder. “Anyone seeking coverage now must go through an underwriting process to evaluate their potential health risks against the possible costs of providing coverage, but to date no one who has gone through underwriting has been denied coverage.”

There have been no increases in dental, vision, life or long-term disability coverage premiums since the plan’s inception, according to Harder. “And the premium increases for health coverage have been below the health insurance market average,” he says.

Church leaders have noted that The Corinthian Plan is decidedly Anabaptist with its focus on mutual care.

“It has been a joy to see how The Corinthian Plan has enabled our church to provide health coverage for church workers not previously covered,” says Richard Thomas, moderator for Mennonite Church USA. “Using biblical principles of mutual aid and sharing with each other, we have strengthened our church family and advanced our witness to the world. It’s inspiring what we can do when we work together with a common vision.”

James R. Martin, congregational consultant for Lancaster Mennonite Conference, says The Corinthian Plan is an effective method of health care mutual aid highly valued by the Lancaster Conference congregations.

“The most appreciated benefits have included the guaranteed coverage for pastors and their families, financial assistance from the Fair Balance Fund that helps smaller congregations to participate, and the blessing of income for several pastors on long-term disability.”

The Benefits Board that provides oversight for The Corinthian Plan recently authorized new wellness initiatives, including making the spouses of participating pastors eligible for the cash wellness incentives that are part of the plan. Health coaching is available.

Self-funded and owned by Mennonite Church USA and its participating congregations, The Corinthian Plan also provides benefits to staff of the Executive Board, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, and Associated Schools and Camps. Everence administers the plan, and claims are paid by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

More information about The Corinthian Plan is available by contacting Keith Harder, director, toll-free 866-866-2872, ext. 34255, or keithh@mennoniteusa.org.

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