Friday, October 10, 2014

GPUMC health insurance - questions for the longterm

I could also title this: why we don’t have to meet in person

The Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church is working on deciding how to care for clergy health insurance in 2015. A number of resources have been made available this week, including details of a proposal to move away from group insurance to individual coverage. The decision about whether to make this change will be made by the Annual Conference, comprised of lay and clergy members. Which brings us to a pre-question: Should we insist on meeting in person to make this decision, or is it acceptable to utilize an e-ballot with a mail-in option for those without access to email?

My first instinct was to think that such a significant change absolutely demanded an in-person meeting. An inconvenient, likely-resented ritual gathering of the Annual Conference seemed appropriate for an inconvenient, likely-resented change to clergy health insurance custom and practice.

I’ve moved away from that first reaction for two reasons. First, I think people will have already studied the issue as much as they want to before the meeting, and will not be swayed during a mid-morning meeting. Related to this, I don’t think it will help our new history together to have a meeting of the Annual Conference that is either poorly attended or accompanied by participant schedule and travel stress.  
My second reason is the one that convinced me it would be ok to meet via email. As I started to think about the topics I would want to discuss related to clergy health insurance, I realized that very few of them related directly to the short-term problem of how to insure clergy in 2015. My questions and concerns have to do with longer-term process questions. Questions that deserve a richer conversation and a longer time for pondering than a single Saturday morning. 
Here are just a few of the things I think it would be interesting and good for us as a Conference to discuss, but not for just a morning:
1) What is our theology related to health and healthcare?
2) What is the role of the Church as we seek to find and bring wholeness to the communities we serve?
3) To what degree does the overall health of clergy relate to the overall health of our congregations and faith journeys?
4) If it is true that over time it has always been “hard” to insure clergy, what interventions (such as Virgin HealthMiles) might we create so that both clergy and church members might be more healthy?
5) How might we learn to have conversations regarding health and healthcare in ways that move us from blame and individual benefit to a view of the world that embraces community and benefit to the group?
6) How does the stress some clergy are articulating over this proposed change relate to national stress over healthcare, and how are we as a Conference called to address the right of people to healthcare, both in the United States, and globally?

I am hopeful that after we get through the next few weeks of stress over the immediate decision regarding how to care for clergy health insurance in 2015, we will remember to address the systemic and long-term issues that accompany the short-term decisions. 

October roses in Omaha
 (In other news, the roses are outlasting the tomato plants on 33rd St in Omaha)


  1. Good questions. I have some of my own that I will not go into here. It is very scary and stressful for some folks when it comes to how health care is and will impact their lives. And I am not talking the poor, I am talking the older, middle class.

  2. Good article, Stephanie. I agree with you that a special session of annual conference will be more stressful than helpful.