The church should not provide contraception coverage through the insurance they provide for their em

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The church should not provide contraception coverage through the insurance they provide for their em

By John Butler As employers, churches are significantly affected by the new health care reform legislation. The legislation contains no specific exemptions for churches, and in many cases the effect will be the same as on similarly sized business employers.

In some ways, however, the law may have a greater impact on church employers. Churches have historically been exempt from many benefit plan laws, and have had more flexibility in designing and establishing health plans than most non-church employers.

For instance, in some churches ministers have substantially better health benefits than other employees. Churches may find some of the new requirements to be more burdensome than an employer with a health plan already under significant government oversight would.

Compared to many non-church employers, churches also tend to have a larger variety of employee categories, such as ministers, lay employees, full-time, part-time and seasonal employees. This may make it more challenging to develop lawful church benefit plans that effectively provide health care for some church employee mixes.

Requirements — While many of the new plan requirements have not received extensive publicity, they could affect health plans almost immediately. Some of the requirements we believe will have particular impact on churches include: Most apply whether the plan is insured, self-insured, or some combination.

The requirements for individual coverage and employer plans discussed in the remainder of this article take effect in Effective January 1,U.

The church should not provide contraception coverage through the insurance they provide for their em

The full penalty will be phased in over several years. There are several exemptions to the insurance requirement, including low income, unaffordable coverage and hardships.

Two religious exemptions, however, are of specific interest to church employees: Religious exemption The religious sect exemption requires that the individual be a practicing member of a religious group with a religious tenant opposing public or private insurance.

The group must have been in existence since December 31, This category may apply to the Amish and similar groups. The religious sect exemption for the health plan coverage does not allow either public or private health insurance.

Exempt from requirement A person who participates in a health care sharing ministry is also exempt from the coverage requirement. The health care sharing ministry must have been in continual existence since December 31, and meet other requirements.

The penalty only applies if a full-time employee is certified to the church as having enrolled in health insurance coverage purchased through a state exchange that results in a premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction allowed or paid to the employee. In counting employees for either the 50 or employee threshold, ministers will be treated like any other worker.

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Many Christians participate in health care sharing ministries. These ministries often allow Christians to assist one another with medical expenses, at a substantially lower cost than insurance premiums.

More information about such ministries is available at www. A specific exception written into the health care reform legislation allows a participant in a health care sharing ministry to be exempt from the individual health care coverage requirement.

For tax purposes, participation is considered a series of gifts. It will not count as payment of insurance or health care under non-discrimination requirements for self-insured or insured health plans.

It also will not count as insurance under the provision for penalties in the large employer health plan requirement described above. Many people believe the loss of tax benefits with health care sharing ministries is more than offset by the reduced medical expenses and sense of sharing among believers.

Our goal is simply to alert church employers of some limitations associated with these programs. It is provided with the understanding that the authors are not engaged in rendering specific accounting or tax advice.

If tax or other expert assistance is required, the services of competent professional persons should be obtained.» Health care reform impacts churches as employers. This may make it more challenging to develop lawful church benefit plans that effectively provide health care for some church employee mixes.

The penalty only applies if a full-time employee is certified to the church as having enrolled in health insurance coverage purchased through . An inauguration is not an emergency The word "emergency" is not in the Constitution, partly because the founders of this country intentionally designed a system that reacts slowly to passing fads.

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