Your pastor's health plan, & abortion coverage PDF Print E-mail

© itrace - Fotolia.comPresbyterians, are your tithes paying for elective abortions or for abortifacient drugs? There are significant differences among the three denominations PPL has researched on this topic.

Members of the EPC will not pay for abortion if they choose the EPC Plan.

ECO's Health Plan does not cover elective abortion but does cover emergency contraceptives for minors.

PCUSA's Health Plan is mandatory for all installed pastors and pays all legal abortion claims.

Members of the EPC will not pay for abortion* if they choose the EPC Plan.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church Medical Benefits Plan (EPC Plan) is exempt from the Dept. of Health and Human Services 2012 contraceptive mandate under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). The EPC has published their opposition to the ACA mandate that requires most medical plans include emergency contraceptive pills to women employees at no cost. EPC objects to such coverage because these "emergency ('morning after') contraceptives can terminate a pregnancy." Churches are exempt from that requirement and the EPC has exercised their right to that exemption.

However, EPC churches are not required to use the EPC Plan. Member churches may choose from three health plan options—two of which would pay for emergency contraceptive pills. The choices open to EPC churches include:

1. Use ACA marketplace: Employees offered & premiums pay for all contraceptives.

2. Buy private insurance: Churches are exempt from offering [emergency contraceptive pills], but must specifically exclude these objectionable products from coverage. Premiums paid by churches are comingled with funds that pay for other employers' emergency contraceptives.

3. Participate in the EPC Medical Plan: No objectionable contraceptive pills are ever purchased with EPC funds.
Members in the EPC who want assurance that none of their tithes will go to pay for emergency contraceptives will want to encourage their church to choose the EPC Plan for their pastor.

ECO's Health Plan does not cover elective abortion* but does cover emergency contraceptives for minors.

The ECO (A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) health plan (via CIGNA) does not cover any elective (surgical or chemical) abortion. However, the pharmaceutical plan does include a class of contraceptive drugs that includes emergency contraceptives. CIGNA offers contraceptive drugs as an inclusive 'class' that contains emergency contraceptives such as Plan B. Because Plan B is available over the counter without a prescription to anyone over 18, the coverage of Plan B applies only to those under 18 (minor dependents).

ECO is eligible to claim an exemption from the HHS mandate that would allow them not to provide contraceptive coverage, but they have expressed a desire to provide contraceptives for women covered by the plan who need them—especially for medical reasons other than avoiding pregnancy. CIGNA, their insurance provider, offers the whole class of contraceptive drugs or none at all. ECO states in their tenets that they "recognize and honor the image of God in every human being from conception to natural death." They express the hope that the women under their plan will live into those expressed values by not using the emergency contraceptive coverage available to them. To date no claims have been submitted. ECO is actively petitioning Cigna to have the Plan B drug removed from the general contraceptive class where it currently resides. As it now stand, members in ECO have no guarantee that their tithes will not pay for emergency contraceptives.

PCUSA's Health Plan is mandatory for all installed pastors and pays all legal abortion* claims.

The Board of Pensions Medical Benefits Plan (The Plan) of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) is mandatory for all installed pastors and often includes other church, presbytery, or denomination staff. The Plan pays for any abortion done for any reason, at any time during pregnancy for Plan members and their dependents. A Relief of Conscience program allows churches to request that the dues they pay for their pastor's Medical Benefits Plan be separated from the stream that covers abortion claims. Recent ROC reports from the BOP no longer state that dues are separated. Instead the BOP reports "an amount equal to the cost of abortion procedures from the prior year is set aside and transferred to the Pensions Assistance Program where they provide a small portion of the funding for Adoption Assistance Grants to benefits Plan members." Are dues being truly separated before abortion claims are paid? A BOP representative assures PPL that "Nothing has changed in the administration of the Relief of Conscience administrative process between in 1998 report and today – what was true then is true now." The amount transferred in 2013 (reflecting amount spent on abortion claims in 2012) was $18,254.66.

A church must request ROC status by sending a session resolution to their presbytery. The Presbytery then certifies the ROC request and sends it to the Board of Pensions. Any abortion claims from pastors, spouses, and dependents covered by The Plan will be paid even those employed by ROC churches.

The number of churches requesting ROC has dropped from 537 in 2011 to 465 in 2013. The BOP Conversations with presbytery execs indicate the change is due to churches departing from the PCUSA, church closings, and church mergers. In June the 221st General Assembly directed the BOP post the list of ROC on its website. The BOP anticipates having the list posted by year end.

*Note: This article uses the term 'abortion' to define elective or voluntary abortion. This article does not address miscarriage, often medically coded as 'spontaneous abortion' which is covered (and rightly so) by the medical plans of all these denominations. 'Spontaneous abortion' is not something a woman chooses but completely outside her control and therefore very different from choosing to abort a child.



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