Acton Institute Powerblog

Obamacare Forces Methodists to Drop Coverage

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umcWhen the Obamacare legislation was rushed through Congress in 2010, Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops for The United Methodist Church (UMC), said he “rejoiced” at the passage of the bill because it aligns with the denomination’s values. But now, many Methodists bishops — and other Christian clergy — are wishing they hadn’t waited for the bill to pass to find out what was in it.

According to a statement released by the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, clergy and lay employees of United Methodist churches may soon lose their health care coverage due to some coming Obamacare provisions:

This potential loss of benefits is due to an oversight in the writing of the bill which overlooked clergy and lay employees of churches as potential recipients of special tax credits for the purchase of health insurance.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the Church Health Plan Act of 2013 to fix this problem. The Affordable Care Act provides low and moderate income individuals and families with tax credits to cover the cost of commercial health insurance plans. The Pryor-Coons bill would extend the same tax benefits available to the general public to clergy and church employees receiving coverage from church health plans. Nationwide, more than 1 million clergy and church employees are covered by church health plans.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is among the largest Protestant denominations in the U.S. Barbara A. Boigegrain, chief executive of the UMC pension and health benefits board, observed, “The majority of pastors and church workers are among the country’s low-to-moderate income level workers. They deserve to receive the full tax benefit under the law that corporate workers at small businesses will receive to help offset the cost of health insurance premiums or of health care costs. In the rush to establish a health care system that works for everyone, churches were overlooked. We ask our congressional leaders to represent all workers in the country, as they consider and vote on this legislation.”

In 2010 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Now that the “fog of controversy” is lifting, Obamacare supporters are beginning to realize they’ve hurt themselves by blindly supporting the disastrous legislation.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Anon

    Obama generously agreed to pay for the health care of congressional laborers, so you would think that churches would follow his example and not be so stingy. People supposedly working for God and not paying into the health care system it is incredible. They should sell the church bell or steeple but do whatever it takes to pay for the health care of their employees. Jesus would do this no doubt.

    • Pastorsmate

      Churches’ financial means directly reflect the economic means of their members. Most churches are full of low-to-middle class people, who are hurting due to Obamacare’s huge rise in taxes and insurance costs. When families struggle economically, they have less to give to the church. Some churches are having to ration electricity, postage, soap and toilet paper just to remain open. Some churches may have to lower staff salaries just to pay their higher Obamacare premiums!
      People struggling under the tax increases and insurance costs no longer have money to give to the church. If churches close, Christianity will not end, as groups of Christians will continue to meet even in people’s garages or on their lawns — but there will be no money to continue the church’s current ministries to the poor. When you tax the middle class to support the lower class, the middle class quickly becomes lower class, too. Then there is no middle class to tax.
      Socialism always eventually collapses into itself.
      Christianity will continue to thrive — but the poor may suffer when ministries to them stop because Christians no longer have money to give.

    • Marc Vander Maas

      Please don’t cheapen the term “generously” by applying it to the Administration’s action on behalf of Congress. Perhaps if Barack Obama personally ponied up the cash to pay for it, generosity would be in play here. But this is just a privileged class protecting itself from the consequences of its own previous (stupid) action.

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  • Guest

    “May soon lose” does not mean coverage has been dropped, as your article’s title states. Please be more accurate in your partisan reporting.

  • Ron Turner

    You reap what you sow.

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  • Bill Hickman

    “Religious groups have sought this fix since at least 2011, and several sources say that at least half a dozen Republican Senate offices have been approached for their support, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander and Dan Coats, but so far to no avail. Emails and calls by the Washington Monthly to Sen. Rubio’s and Alexander’s offices were not returned.”

    I think it’s worth pointing out that apparently Republicans in Congress are the ones blocking the fix.

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