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As a pastor, you know that seminary provides you with a strong theological foundation. But it doesn’t teach you how to handle the process of finding your own healthcare.

What if you don’t choose the right benefits? What if your healthcare plan doesn’t make good use of the church’s financial resources? With over 1,100 healthcare insurance providers, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

In this blog, we’ll cover the top 6 questions about health insurance plans for pastors and what you need to know when it comes to choosing the right fit for your church. 

The Top 6 Questions Answered

1. Are churches required to offer pastors health insurance? 

Surprisingly, many churches in the United States may not legally be required to offer health insurance to their pastors or church staff. Why? According to The Affordable Care Act, it’s the number of staff that determines if the organization is required to offer health insurance. As of now, the threshold is 50 or more full-time employees — and most churches are well under that. 

However, denominational rules may require it. For example, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) require churches to provide health insurance for their pastors and church staff — but they aren’t specific about the provider or the required insurance plans.

The real question is, “Should I have healthcare even though the church isn’t required to purchase it?” And the answer to that is yes. To be able to serve a congregation, you need to keep up your health.

2. Are all pastors eligible for health insurance? 

In most insurance plans, a church pastor who works at least 30 hours per week can qualify for a health insurance plan. 

There are special cases where part-time pastors can also be insured, but be sure to ask your health insurance provider about that if needed.

In addition to eligibility, it is good to know when coverage starts. Keep in mind that some carriers can make you wait up to 90 days for coverage to begin. With others,   benefits often start on the first day of the month following the start of your coverage. 

For new employees, this will be after their hire date. If you’ve switched providers, benefits will be accessible on the first of the month after your new plan is in place and any waiting period has ended.   

3. When can pastors sign up for health insurance?

If a pastor brings their whole church in as a new client for an insurance provider, then they can sign up anytime. Providers can work with a new organization as soon as any previous plans from a different provider expire. 

However, if you’re a new pastor of a church, you can sign up when your employment begins. 

After that, changes to your health insurance plan will be subject to the open enrollment period. This is the only time when you can switch plans or make changes to existing coverage (with the expectation of a major life event like marriage, divorce, or a birth in the family). 

4. How much does a health insurance plan for pastors cost? 

Health insurance costs can vary greatly. However, they’re typically based on the size of the church. The cost can also depend on a person’s medical history, age, and location. 

In general, smaller churches aren’t able to average out the risk factors that insurance companies look at. That means the smaller your group, the more you tend to pay for coverage. However, churches that are members of a denomination typically have an advantage — you can enroll in plans as a group with the same provider. The right insurance provider will be able to base plan costs on the size of the larger group.  

Overall, it’s the “law of numbers” in insurance. For example, providing coverage for 30 people from several churches will cost less than a similar plan purchased by an individual church for 3 people.

5. Are healthcare plans for pastors affordable? 

Most insurance providers have more than one healthcare offering. For example, Reformed Benefits Association has 3 different plans available to choose from. This allows you to find coverage that fits your budget.

But remember to take into consideration the hidden costs of not having coverage. Part of the value of a health insurance plan is peace of mind. You will feel safer knowing that there’s someone to help you when you need it. Medical treatment, appointments, and check-in can be costly, so it’s important to have health insurance that works for you. When you’re sick, you want to focus on getting better, not on paying the bills.

6. Is there a difference between a Christian and a secular health insurance provider?

Yes! A Christian organization has a much better understanding of your role within the church. They understand your call to lead your congregation. They know you’re not health insurance experts (nor should you be) — making them open and willing to field questions while helping you live out the Lord’s call. 

That’s not always the case with a secular health insurance provider — and it can often leave you feeling like you’re just a number.   

Supporting Pastors So You Can Get Back to Leading Your Church

At Reformed Benefits Association, we’ve seen firsthand the responsibility that pastors have leading a congregation. We believe healthcare insurance shouldn’t add to that.

As a nonprofit organization that works exclusively with faith-based ministries, we’re dedicated to helping pastors select the right insurance benefits, so you can focus on doing what they’re called to do — further the Kingdom of God.
If you have questions and want to learn more about health insurance for pastors, send us a quick email. We’d love to talk to you!