So, how will ObamaCare, properly known in its shortened form as the Affordable Care Act, effect you?
Who knows? How many more times will it be changed before it’s fully implemented?
How it will ultimately effect you and other ministers is still uncertain, but the first wave of the coming storm has already drenched millions of Americans with millions more bracing themselves for the next blow.
Here are a few things that we know. Smaller churches, because they have less than fifty employees, will be okay for a while. However, if a church provides medical insurance for its pastor, or reimburses him for that expense, then that pastor will likely be caught between that ever-present rock and a hard place.
Raul Rivera of STARTCHURCH.COM says that it is best for a pastor or staff member to secure his or her own policy and then take advantage of the tax subsidies when they file their income taxes. However, that means the staff member must bear the cost of the policy until next year’s taxes are filed because if the church reimburses the employee, he or she loses the right to get a refund based on the premiums they’ve paid. You can read more about it here.
Some are turning to christian medical sharing ministries instead of insurance. These groups do not sell insurance, but serve as a clearing house for its members. Membership fees are usually lower than insurance premiums. Each month, members receive a notice of those in their group who have medical expenses. Members are then directed to mail their monthly “dues” directly to that member. So, each month, members send their agreed-upon amount to a different person.
When you have a medical expense that the group has agreed to cover, you submit your bills to the office and they direct the appropriate number of members to mail their monthly gifts to you. According to some, these groups satisfy the portion of the new law that requires everyone have medical coverage. It will be interesting to see how the Administration reacts to these groups once this system is fully implemented. (To learn more about these sharing ministries, follow the links here.)
Congress and the White House are working feverishly to put out the political fires that this Act is fueling so who knows what they will add or adjust – so there is no point in giving lots of advice right now. However, if you have not developed a relationship with an accountant or tax attorney who specializes in churches and non-profit organizations, now would be the time to find one. Laws governing churches are unique and complex and always changing. To assume that any accountant will be on top of those changes could prove to be a painful and expensive assumption. Going to the trouble of finding one who works daily with church law and tax issues will be time well spent.
If you aren’t yet, prepare to be frustrated and aggravated as the noose of this ill-conceived and poorly developed law tightens around our collective necks. Expect more delays and exemptions and excuses as the politicians try to keep us numb to the pain until after the November elections. But pay attention! Your elected representatives in Washington are not working to protect your health and savings. Only you can do that. Seek qualified counsel and make sure the “unknowns” of the Affordable Care Act don’t surprise you.