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Annual Conference Hears Reports on Health, Pensions

On Monday afternoon, the Annual Conference session turned to West Ohio’s Abundant Living Reports, including OhioHealth, Clergy Wellness and the Board of Pension & Health Report.

In addition to being one of the largest health systems in central Ohio, OhioHealth is a ministry of The West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. Kristin Langstraat, system director for Faith Community Relations, spoke to the session about West Ohio’s focus on health this past year.

“Health doesn’t stop when folks leave the hospital. In fact, the community is where health starts,” Langstraat remarked. “And who is out in the community? All of your churches. … A hospital might be able to do some dramatic surgical intervention to save someone’s life. But if that person doesn’t have a reason to live and meaning in their life, that’s a tragedy. The hospital cannot fix that.”

Kristin went on to mention some ways in which churches can be more mindful of health – making church potlucks more healthy, talking about end of life decisions ahead of time, and supporting people through mental health and addiction crises.

Next up was a report from Janet Blocher, chair of the Clergy Wellness Task Force, which was convened from 2017-2019. The Task Force has spent the last several years seeking ways to improve physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual wellness for clergy in West Ohio.

One of the most important outcomes was the creation of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all West Ohio clergy, Conference and District staff, and their dependent family members. The EAP offers free mental health care provided by OhioHealth professionals, including up to six visits per year for an individual, or 12 visits for a couple. The benefit will begin July 1, 2019.

Blocher also pointed out the numerous health resources now available on the West Ohio Conference website at www.westohioumc.org under the ‘Resources’ tab.

Ken Woode then brought a report from the Conference’s Board of Pension & Health. In the coming year, there will be no changes to the healthcare plans for active or retired clergy. However, the board is looking at changes to the retiree plan starting in 2021. So far this year, healthcare claims are below expectations, unlike in 2018.

Woode also reminded clergy to take advantage of the healthcare program’s incentives, like receiving a $100 check for completing your annual physical – which is also fully covered under the plan. In addition, if clergy sign up for the Health Savings Account plan, the Conference will deposit tax-deferred money into the fund on January 1 and July 1.

On the pension side, as of January 1, 2019, all eligible clergy were auto-enrolled into the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP) at a rate of 3%. Participation in the plan increased by almost 60% over last year with 97% of clergy now enrolled. Beginning January 1, 2020, all eligible clergy will see an auto-escalation in their pre-tax UMPIP contribution of 1% per year until a maximum of 10% is reached – unless clergy opt-out.

At the end of these reports, the Annual Conference voted to pass as presented Recommendation #2 – 2020 Board of Pension and Health Benefits.