The Corinthian Plan's first year is a success
Director sees high commitment to the plan, low premium increases for 2011.by Anna Groff
The Corinthian Plan's first year proved to be successful, according to Keith Harder, director of The Corinthian Plan. The Corinthian Plan is Mennonite Church USA's new heath-care access plan for pastors and other congregational employees that began Jan. 1, 2010.
First, 99 percent of churches that enrolled in the plan in 2010 renewed for 2011.
"The really good news is that now that we've completed the first year, we have the same number of congregations we started the year with," said Harder on Jan. 25. “That represents a very strong commitment to the plan."
Second, Harder said he also felt positive that the claims made against the plan were less than the amount of premiums collected.
"We feel that financial performance of the plan has been very good," he said. "This helped keep premium increases for 2011 lower than many insurance plans and helped us build our reserves."
While the individual church situations vary, the overall premium increase, on average, falls under 10 percent—below the national average, according to Harder. Anecdotally, Harder said he has heard increases as high as 40 percent.
"We feel confident that the increases in premium rates were less than what most people experienced," he said.
Third, the plan also made a difference for congregations without any health coverage. Last year, 56 churches received financial assistance with the premium through The Corinthian Plan, and this year 55 will receive assistance.
"I'd like congregations to know that their contributions as part of their premiums is helping others," Harder said.
However, Harder said, he acknowledges and struggles with the fact that the high deductible remains a challenge for many congregations.
While the plan provides a safety net, unfortunately pastors with high medical costs do not see tangible benefits until their costs reach the deductible.
Harder said he felt encouraged when he saw other churches step in to offer financial support for a church with high medical costs. However, he added, "it remains a big challenge. I don't want to understate that."
Looking into 2011, Harder hopes to promote and increase participation in the wellness initiatives. The optional initiative provides cash benefit to those who complete a wellness assessment (which gives specific individualized recommendations to improve health and reduce risks) and to set and achieve wellness goals. While the original plan included the feature, only about 15 percent of those eligible accessed the benefit in 2010.
While the participation goal of 70 percent of all Mennonite Church USA congregations has not yet been met, The Corinthian Plan project team agreed that there is sufficient participation for a plan with a solid financial foundation.
Harder said the plan started with 451 participating congregations, which is about half the total of Mennonite Church USA congregations.
"The more critical number was the percentage of eligible [congregations]," Harder said. "Four-hundred and fifty-one represents about 70 percent of those congregations that have eligible employees."
The Corinthian Plan board continues to monitor the potential impact of the health reform legislation, but it remains too soon to know how it will affect the plan.
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