Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Health Insurance

I began being covered by Concordia Health Plan in 1996 when I began teaching. When we moved to MN we continued on CHP as Ram was a pastor then. We have been on a couple of different health care plans as part of CHP as we lived in different places and different churches gave different benefits. Recently there have been some changes to health plans (thanks to ACA) and our church was asked to make a decision of which health plan from CHP they would like their pastor to be on next year.

Our church leaders think CHP is really expensive but I'm not sure they are comparing and remembering what all CHP does. I have been doing lots of research on this because our church leaders do not have as much interest in this as I do since it concerns health care for MY family.

I recently came across this chart. I did not know some of these facts about CHP.
*CHP also covers dental, vision, mental health, substance abuse treatment. (I did know this, but it is a good reminder that many plans do not cover all this.)
*There is a three year waiting period to opt back into the CHP. (That makes the decision to opt out a BIG decision.)
*If a worker is disabled while on the CHP after 6 months of disability, the health premiums are waived for both the employer and employee. (We actually have friends that are church workers that have taken advantage of this. You hope to never need this, but if you do it is available.)
*If an employee is in the CHP for 5 years-If the employee retires early, they can purchase health insurance from CHP at the same rate as Lutheran employers, they get the group rate until they reach 65 and are eligible for medicare. (I knew this because my dad would have loved to have this benefit but he wasn't eligible because he hadn't been part of CHP at his early retirement.)
*If an employee is in the CHP for 5 years-If the employee dies while employed, the surviving spouse can stay on CHP at the Lutheran employer rate until they reach 65 and are eligible for medicare. (This has been in the back of my mind as we plan for life insurance and financial details. I always thought I would not be able to continue being a SAHM if something happened to Ram because I would need health insurance. Our Thrivent representative was shocked to see how good Ram's survivor benefits would be if something happened to him. Add in this benefit and it's even better than we thought.)

I would like to add a couple of more comments from my own personal experience.
*The Lambs go to a pediatric dentist and the receptionist there was shocked at how good of dental benefits we have. He said that very few of their other patients have dental benefits like we do. I had no idea our benefits were that good until he said that.
*We took full advantage of our high deductible plan last year when we met our deductible early in the year. Ram and Lamb 2 had surgery, Lamb 2 and Lamb 3 had speech therapy, Lamb 2 had occupational therapy, and we all had various other doctor appointments. All that was covered 100% after we met our deductible. I know that it is rare to meet your deductible, but our chiropractor receptionist was shocked that they would pay 100%, not even need to pay a copay then.
*When I was teaching it was not this way, but the last several years the vision benefits have been really good. An eye exam is $10 for Ram and for Ewe, free for the Lambs. We are allowed to get a complete pair of glasses every other year and my cost for my glasses last year was just $25. Ram's were more because he needed a stronger prescription, but still very affordable for what he needed. I have friends that only go to the eye doctor every other year because of the cost. I insist on every year for all 5 of us especially because the Lambs are homeschooled and we might not notice that they have vision problems since they aren't trying to see the whiteboard in the front of the classroom.

When I began doing my research on this, the lifelong Lutheran and the LCMS church worker in me kept hearing a voice in the back of my head saying, "It's really really bad to get off of Concordia Plans". Ram, who is not a lifelong Lutheran, told me that times have changed in the health insurance and medical world so much in the past few years that perhaps that voice in the back of my head wasn't so true any more. But when I read this chart, that voice is saying that it is even more important to stay part of CHP than I thought it was.

I still don't know which plan our church leaders are going to choose for us, but they have until September 8 to make a decision. In the meantime I continue to pray about this and will continue my research. I do want the best decision made for both Ram and for our small church. Right now I'm still unsure what the best decision is, but I do know from this chart that it is more complicated than just paying less of a premium each month. I also know that no matter what decision is made the Lord will take care of us. 

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