Friday, March 02, 2007

Screwed Again

Oh, my. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Board of pensions is planning to switch members' health insurance from an Aetna PPO to Blue Cross/Blue Shield HMO coverage. That's bad enough; what really offends the Egg, however, is the grotesque flummery of the press release (q.v. with a click).

Others may complain, but Father A. has been quite pleased with his Aetna coverage over the years, and so have his physicians -- many of whom will need to be replaced when he can't afford to pay them out of pocket and they don't take Blue Cross. On the other hand, every ELCA pastor (or at least every one of us who serves a small church) knows that health-care costs are crippling our congregations. If this is what it takes, then so be it.

(On the third hand, one of the reasons that these costs have grown especially fast in metropolitan regions, where the churches are generally smallest and poorest, is that Board of Pensions' decision, some years ago, to stop equalizing costs without regard to geography. It was a bad, short-sighted decision, and many of us protested it at the time.)

Anyhoo, that's all background to the aforementioned flummery.

The press release describes this decision not as a cost-cutting move, but as the exciting! new! adoption of a "wellness plan." This means that if you exercise and eat right, they will give you some credit --up to $300 per annum. Fine idea, especially for those of us who do exercise and eat right. The problem is that the deductibles are going to escalate from $350 to $600. So there goes your wellness rebate.

And then there's this: "As a self-employed individual without these benefits, I am almost envious of the opportunity that this plan offers," T. Van Matthews, Simpsonville, S.C., told the trustees' products and services committee, which he chairs. "In my world, there seems to be only one incentive that the insurer considers and that is to simply raise rates," he said.

Wow. So a guy who doesn't participate in the plan, but wants us to, is recommending it. In fact, he's "almost" envious.
And he's so glad that our new coprporate overlords ... care about us. It's touching.

Honestly, the BOP health plan covers 50,000 pastors and lay staff at 11,000 congregations. That's a big plan -- you'd think Aetna would have negotiated down to something we could all live with. But what does the Egg know?

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