Friday, April 1, 2022

We work for you. . .

On April Fools Day I will turn my focus onto the health insurance industry that defines health, provides the means to good health, and assigns a medical code to it all so that the provider gets paid.  Quite frankly, I have good health insurance -- a high deductible policy paid for by my parish and a health savings account to address those things not covered or part of that deductible.  I am thankful for this coverage and for the willingness of my parish to provide it for me and the other full-time staff.  That said, my insurer is probably not all that different from yours even though it is provided by and works with the Church -- indeed as an agency of the Synod.

My complaints are these.

  1. I get way too many emails from my insurer -- most often 2-3 daily!  Most of them are telling me how wonderful they are and what wonderful things they can do for me if I just listen to them, agree to share everything with them, and enroll in the programs they offer.
  2. I get way too many snail mails from my insurer -- sometimes twice a week!  In fact, I got one not too long ago in which they provided me a paper sleeve in which to place my insurance card!  I was breathless with anticipation and joy as I finally had a paper sleeve in which to put my insurance card because prior to that time it was forced to sit in a sleeve in my wallet.
  3. I get too many phone calls from my insurer -- that is, until my wife and I responded to the helpful voices who just want to discuss my care or my medicines or my fat belly or my sedentary lifestyle by asking who they were, if they were medical professionals, and challenging their right to my private medical information.  If you are troubled by these phone calls, I might suggest the same retort.
  4. I am told about too many programs from my insurer -- more programs, acronyms, and catchy names than I will ever remember.  I am told about Vitality, Omada, Wondr, Dr. on Demand, Sword, Telehealth, and so many more -- not because I inquired or my health condition needs these programs but simply because they offer them, they might possible benefit me, they cost money, and they need to justify the cost by increasing participation.
  5. I am given too many rules and too many rulers to the point where I am dizzy with advice -- from my insurer and those whom they pay.  My insurer tells me one thing about what is covered, the provider tells me another.  Often I get competing bills -- the insurer says I owe this and the provider says I owe something else - usually more.  Most of the information is written in legalese rather than plain English so what I read is often not what they say is written.
  6. I am told that there are ways to reduce the great cost of health insurance -- but what saves money on one side, only costs money on the other side.  It is not cost saving but cost shifting.  The Church can pay less for my health insurance if I agree to assume more of the cost of my health care.  Well, I have a great idea.  Reduce the unsolicited emails, snail mails, and phone calls and those who are responsible for them.  Even if the cost went down only $100 a year, it would be worth it to me.

One more thing. My health insurer and retirement benefit supplier has made arrangements with a payroll company to take over my parish's payroll.  Sounds like a good thing.  They will work a deal at a discount.  We will probably go with them.  But the nagging question is what does this have to do with their mission as a health insurer and retirement/disability supplier?  My church's bank (called an extension fund) has a deal with an online giving provider.  They will absorb some of the fees if the money is deposited in one of their accounts.  Good deal, right?  Our online giving costs us about $125 per month on an income of $18-20K per month online.  But is that the job of the church's bank to make deals and offer discounts for vendors that serve my parish?  The same bank has acquired a ranch, a retreat center for pastors and their families.  It sounds like a good thing.  God knows that I and many of my cohorts could due with a break after two years of COVID on top of the ordinary stressors of pastoral ministry.  But again, is that the mission of the church bank?  

I could go on.  It is called mission creep in the armed forces and politics.  It is the same here.  Because we can, we should.  The things offered are not bad and probably very good.  But the nagging question for me is whose responsibility is it to provide these things?  Is it good to muddy the waters by making agencies created for one purpose to serve another -- along side their original purpose?  My concern for them is the same for the parish -- nearly everything we do is good and right and salutary but what does it have to do with our basic purpose and who will tell us when our programs become more important than the first and essential mission of the Church -- the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments?

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