January 2012
Real Basics for Vestries

Parity in Healthcare

Honoring its commitment to social justice as it relates to church employees, in 2009 the Episcopal Church’s 76[1] General Convention voted to require equal access to and funding of health care plans for eligible clergy and lay employees by January 1, 2013. The resulting Denominational Health Plan (DHP) is a Church-wide program of healthcare benefit plans established via Resolution A177 and its associated canon. The DHP is administered by the Church Pension Fund (CPF), with benefits provided through the Episcopal Church Medical Trust (the Medical Trust). Read more about the Canon.

The Spirit behind Resolution A177

This resolution speaks to social justice issues around adequate benefits for the Church’s lay employees. While cost concerns around this initiative are real, so is the need for lay employees to have adequate healthcare benefits. The support and dedication of lay employees make many ministries possible, and providing them with adequate benefits is not only necessary, it’s the right thing to do.

What is Required?

Resolution A177 requires that all domestic dioceses, parishes, missions, and other ecclesiastical organizations or bodies subject to the authority of the Episcopal Church enroll eligible clergy and lay employees who are scheduled to work at least 1,500 compensated hours per year in a healthcare plan through the Medical Trust. Employees with coverage from an approved source may opt out of the DHP.

Each diocese needs to establish, on a diocesan-wide basis, the minimum required employer cost-share policy for medical benefits: the same for clergy and lay. Each diocese will also determine if their other institutions and schools must participate and if domestic partners may be covered.    

What is the Timeline?

The resolution calls for the DHP implementation to be completed by January 1, 2013. With this date swiftly approaching, here are some tips and tools to enable vestry members, treasurers, and administrators to support their congregations’ compliance with the resolution.

What does the resolution require?
Do you have eligible employees?
▪ What does “parity” mean in the context of the DHP, and how does it work? 

Parity refers to the requirement that the diocesan policy regarding employer cost-sharing must be the same for all eligible clergy and lay employees scheduled to work at least 1,500 compensated hours per year. 

How are Dioceses and Parishes Approaching DHP implementation?

Many solutions have been developed around the church. First, employee data gathering and careful financial analysis needs to occur for each diocese and parish to understand the impact of implementation. Most dioceses are considering modest employee cost-sharing policies to balance clergy and lay benefits. Some dioceses are using High Deductible Health Plans with associated Health Savings Accounts for all eligible employees as a way to reach parity, while others have established a comprehensive base policy and offered employees the option to buy a higher tier plan and pay the difference. Each diocese and parish is unique in its individual needs. The Medical Trust team is available to assist and consult. (More cost-sharing examples can be found on the parity page of our DHP Resource Center.)

The DHP implementation team is available to answer your questions. For additional information or assistance, please email us at DHPinfo@cpg.org, or call your Regional Relationship Specialist

Laurie Kazilionis is Vice President of Client Relations for the Episcopal Church Medical Trust.


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This article is part of the January 2012 Vestry Papers issue on Real Basics for Vestries