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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Throwing one million clergy under the bus?

Now, given that the original source for this is Ed Kilgore, Democratic apparatchik, I have to think the agenda is getting the Republicans to open up ObamaCare for legislative "fixes," which are sorely needed. That said, one million people, clergy and clergy support or not, is a pretty big number to throw in the wrong bucket. Religion Dispatch:

[T]t seems that a number of churches have been asking for a fix to the Affordable Care Act. So far, they've been getting a receptive hearing from Democrats on Capitol Hill—but not Republicans. Here’s the nub of the problem they’re trying to solve:

Without the requested “fix,” as many as one million clergy members and church employees now enrolled in church-sponsored health plans could soon face the choice of leaving these plans (designed to meet their unique needs, such as the frequent reassignment of clergy across state lines*) or losing access to the tax subsidies provided by the ACA to help lower-to-middle income Americans purchase insurance.

Observers generally agree that the exclusion of church health plans from eligibility for the exchanges, which occurred because they do not sell policies to the general public, was an oversight caused by staffers scrambling to draft bill language under tight deadlines**. Because employees of religious institutions are usually paid modestly, many will qualify for subsidies made available on a sliding scale to families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. But the subsidies can only be used to purchase insurance from the exchanges. …

Without the “fix,” [a representative of the Southern Baptist Convention] said, clergy would be “forced out” of church plans to access the benefits they would otherwise be entitled to receive under the law. And that in turn could threaten the viability of the plans themselves. Among the supporters of the Pryor-Coons effort are the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church. The legislation also enjoys the backing of the Church Alliance, a coalition of religious organizations represented by the firm K&L Gates.***

I can confirm the problem, from both professional and (doleful) personal experience. One Board of Pensions member for the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently estimated that dues paid to his board for health insurance “amounted to just 8 percent of effective salary” in the 1980s. “Now they come to 21 percent, and that’s still not enough to cover expenses.” Church programs tend to be expensive because they’re small, and because the people they cover are typically older than average. (Clergy as a whole are older than most professionals, and church programs also cover retirees.)

Spiraling health-care costs can put quite a bit of pressure on churches, particularly small congregations.

Just one of the many Easter Eggs built into ObamaCare.

And all of these problems, every single one of them, are caused by the willful refusal of the entire political class -- including Obama -- to treat health care as a right, put single payer Medicare for All on the table, and adopt a simple and above all proven health care solution. I mean, sweet Jeebus. Now each state is a bucket, and a million people fall between those buckets!

NOTE * That's the very first thing this abomination asks you for: Your state. So right out of the box, the ObamaCare website isn't built for those who need to move a lot for their work; I would think that applies also to students, especially grad students, and adjuncts.

NOTE ** Oh, blame the staffers. That's rich. It just couldn't be the fault of Wellpoint's Liz Fowler, who drafted the bill on behalf of the insurance companies, or Max Baucus!

NOTE *** Who I am sure had nothing whatever to do with planting this story in Kilgore's column.

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Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

[Full Disclosure: I am not hostile to the faith community, so I don't want my comments misconstrued as hateful, even though I object to the blurring of separation between Church and State.]

On a personal note, I was offered health insurance coverage as a teenager--as a Church pianist. My obligation was approximately four hours per week, including rehearsal, since I accompanied only one choir. From the clergy I know today, health benefits have grown more generous over the years, not less.

However, I am very disturbed that the Democratic Party "blurred the bright line of separation between Church and State," in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. Many, if not most, liberal faith communities and churches are absolutely AGAINST this policy.

Welfare Reform Act and Ashcroft Amendment (1996)--The 1996 Welfare Reform Act, signed by President Clinton, enabled some houses of worship to receive tax dollars for delivery of social services, due to an amendment sponsored by then Senator, now Attorney General, John Ashcroft. Prior to that year, government funds could go to religious groups for social services, but the institutions were required to have separate, secular nonprofit entities to administer the programs. With the "charitable choice" provision of the 1996 act, religious charities were permitted to compete for government welfare dollars.

So I can only assume that it was done to mollify conservative, right-wing Christian organizations. And I speculate that this is an election year gimmick designed to save Pryor's right-wing "self." {to be respectful}

Mark Pryor 2014: Arkansas Senator Faces Criticism From Both Sides Ahead Of Reelection

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The conservative Club for Growth tags Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor as President Barack Obama's "closest ally" in the state. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun-control advocacy group says Pryor "let us down."

Pryor's re-election race is 17 months away, but the Democratic incumbent seen as perhaps the most vulnerable in 2014 is already taking hits from the right and the left. That's forced the second-term senator to aggressively defend himself and step into re-election mode sooner than planned, even though he has no Republican opponent.

"My goal right now is to put the campaign off until the election year, 2014," Pryor told reporters recently. "They keep dragging me back into the politics, they keep running ads and trying to keep it stirred it up here."

Here's an excerpt from Pryor's bill:

Pryor: Church Health Care Bill Helps Churches Provide Affordable Health Care Coverage

By allowing church health plans to be “qualified church plans,” The Church Health Plan Act of 2013 would help level the playing field between commercial health plans and church health plans.

Under this new category, churches would be eligible to receive the small employer tax credits, exchange subsidies, and participants would be allowed to stay in their existing plans. This bill has received the backing of the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church.

Senate Dems and the President insisted upon this handling of "Cadillac Plans."

So, I don't buy their "crocodile tears."

Church plans are generally "Cadillac Plus" plans, that would put many union plans to shame.

Have personally never known a "member of clergy" whose health insurance premiums were not picked up at 100% by the church coffers. And most clergy out-of-pocket costs are minimal (if anything).

The Dem Party will would be hard pressed to change this now. It is THEIR policy.
There clearly would be no incentive for Republicans to "rescue Dems" from their own ill-conceived health "insurance" system.

If anything, since Repubs were united in distancing themselves from the ACA, there's no reason not to think that they will very aptly use this debacle against Dems in order to motivate rank-and-file conservative Christians to turn out at the polls in 2014.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

Senate Democrats and the President went to great lengths to attempt to impose a huge tax surcharge on "Cadillac Plans."

Unions actively lobbied against this, and won a small concession--delayed this tax until Tax Year beginning January 1, 2018.

How on earth could Democrats allow church clergy to keep their VERY generous health insurance benefits, and not come to the rescue of the union rank-and-file (who helped get them elected)?

Here's what Sam Stein had to say at Huffington Post in 2010 about the Dems' proposal to tax "Cadillac Plans."

Cadillac Tax Feud: House, Senate Dems Tangle
[First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:10 PM ET]

Tensions are mounting between House and Senate Democrats as the chambers try to hammer out an agreement over how to pay for health care reform.

House leaders are growing increasingly concerned that the Senate's mechanism for funding legislation -- which relies on taxing high-end insurance policies -- represents not just bad policy but could also be disastrous at the polls . . .

Added a health care strategist outside of government : "It's a disaster because members have to run every two years and now they are going to pass this tax that Obama and they campaigned against. You have essentially a ticking time bomb for every member who has to run in 2010." . . .

jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

How on earth could Democrats allow church clergy to keep their VERY generous health insurance benefits, and not come to the rescue of the union rank-and-file (who helped get them elected)?

and explain but it's cutting into my time for wine;) The demodogs only like you when they need your money/vote then as soon as the election over under the bus you go. They don't care if it's unions, progressive, or the thousands of 20yr olds the put 0 in office to start with, they just help themselves because they like the party of wingnutters are just puppets in the thing called theater in the beltway.

Thanks for the info on churches and health care.