May 2011
Caring for Each Other

Introducing the Denominational Health Plan

In July 2009, the 76[1] General Convention passed Resolution A177, establishing the Denominational Health Plan (DHP), a Church-wide program of health care benefit plans requiring equal access to and funding of health care plans for eligible clergy and lay employees (those scheduled for at least 1,500 hours of compensated work annually) by January 1, 2013. The Episcopal Church Medical Trust is charged with leading this effort; ECF Vital Practices invited Laurie Kazilionis, Vice President, Client Relations, The Episcopal Church Medical Trust, to provide information on this program and the timetable for implementation. 

ECF Vital Practices (ECFVP): What was the impetus for a church-wide program of health care benefits for lay employees?

Episcopal Church Medical Trust (ECMT): I believe the General Convention saw it as a social justice issue. The support and dedication of lay employees make many ministries possible. The Episcopal Church, with its commitment to social justice, recognizes the need for its lay employees to have adequate health care benefits. Currently, some lay employees do not have access to health care benefits, and others have a higher cost share than clergy for the same benefits.

Resolution A177 requires that a cost-sharing policy be established by each diocese, and that it be the same for eligible clergy and lay employees. Compliance with the DHP is canonically required no later than January 1, 2013, thus assuring the Church’s eligible lay employees of the safety net of health care benefits.

While cost concerns around this initiative are real, providing adequate healthcare benefits is not only necessary, it’s the right thing to do.

ECFVP: What do Resolution A177 and its associated canon require of Church employers?

ECMT: Church employers are required to provide all eligible clergy and lay employees with equal access to and parity of funding for health care benefits, and these benefits are to be provided through the Medical Trust. Under the terms of this resolution, an eligible employee is someone who is scheduled for at least 1,500 hours of compensated work annually for any domestic diocese, parish, mission, or other ecclesiastical organization or body subject to the authority of the Church.

ECFVP: What is the role of the diocese?

ECMT: Each diocese is the primary partner in implementing the DHP. They continue to exercise autonomy and choice related to the DHP and:

  • decide whether institutions under its authority (schools, social service agencies, etc) are required to participate; 
  • determine a cost-sharing policy that is the same for eligible clergy and lay employees; 
  • decide whether health care benefits must be offered to domestic partners; 
  • determine annually which Medical Trust health plan(s) will be offered in that diocese [1] 
  • communicate plan options to congregational and institutional employers in its diocese.

ECFVP: What are the cost implications of compliance?

ECMT: Overall impact on an individual diocese or congregation will vary. Factors such as current uniformity of clergy and lay contributions, level of health plan coverage currently offered, percentage of the eligible population already enrolled in the DHP, demographic profile of the eligible population not yet enrolled in the DHP, and decisions made by each diocese under the DHP, as well as other local factors, all play a part in determining cost.

ECFVP: Does the DHP provide any cost-savings?

ECMT: Several key objectives of the DHP are to contain costs, effect savings, and make the continued provision of health care benefits sustainable. The ability to buy health care benefits collectively rather than per-diocese or per-congregation means savings for the Church since larger groups yield lower unit costs. Since 2009, the Medical Trust has experienced material cost savings through economies-of-scale purchasing, and the optimization of provider and prescription drug discounts. These savings have been directly shared with the Church through lower annual premium increases in 2010 and 2011. We expect such savings to continue and grow as we move toward full implementation.

ECFVP: What’s the plan for implementation?

ECMT: Implementation is already underway. The Medical Trust’s team of Regional Relationship Specialists are partnering and consulting with dioceses and institutions to assist them in creating individualized implementation plans to accommodate actual local conditions and identify opportunities to realize optimal savings while continuing to provide access to high quality benefits.

The DHP Resource Center has a lot of information to help dioceses, congregations, and institutions learn more.

ECFVP: And the implementation schedule?

ECMT: Individual dioceses are at different stages of implementation. Some are just forming committees and others are completing their decision-making. Since each diocese will require a customized plan, the Regional Relationship Specialists will be working with all dioceses over the next 18 months to complete implementation no later than January 1, 2013. To find out where your diocese is in the process, please contact your diocesan office.

ECFVP: Can dioceses enroll in the DHP now?

ECMT: Yes. Any group can adopt a Medical Trust health plan prior to the DHP deadline, and may choose to comply with the parity and equal access regulations of Resolution A177 now or later — but in no case later than January 1, 2013.

ECFVP: What’s the process for enrolling? Have you set up a registration system for dioceses and employers?

ECMT: To help make compliance as easy as possible, we have designed an online registration tool that helps employers identify the covered population of employers and employees.

The first phase of the CPG Registration System – called the Institution Roster – began rolling out to diocesan administrators in April. It helps confirm and collect relevant information about Church employers in each diocese who need to comply.
The second phase – called the Employee Roster – rolls out later and will help confirm and collect information about employees. Together, these two rosters will give Church employers the information they need for compliance.

ECFVP: Where can congregational leaders go for additional information?

ECMT: They can visit the DHP Resource Center at http://, contact us at 800.480.9967, Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 8:00pm ET (excluding holidays), or by email at

Laurie Kazilionis leads the Medical Trust’s Client Relations team and, in addition to other responsibilities, is responsible for the implementation of the Denominational Health Plan. Prior to joining the Medical Trust in May 2005, she served for 12 years as the Director of Finance for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. She is a trustee of Camp Bishopswood, an Episcopal camp in Hope, Maine.

The Episcopal Church Medical Trust (ECMT) is affiliated with the Church Pension Fund, and is the sponsor of health plans that have served the Episcopal Church for over 30 years. The Medical Trust exclusively serves the dioceses, parishes, missionary districts, seminaries, schools, and other bodies subject to the authority of The Episcopal Church, and is very familiar with the unique needs of Episcopal employees, churches, and institutions, offering customized health care solutions to meet those needs. It exists solely to provide the Church with access to quality, affordable health care benefits and outstanding service in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner.



[1] The Medical Trust offers a variety of comprehensive health plans through world-class provider networks. Not all plans are available in every location.
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This article is part of the May 2011 Vestry Papers issue on Caring for Each Other