U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Chris Coons (D-DE) today introduced a bill to allow thousands of Arkansas clergy and church employees to receive access to affordable and reliable health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Under the Affordable Care Act, many benefits are applicable only to "qualified health plans." Unlike other health insurance plans, church plans are only available to church clergy employees. Because they are closed to the general public, church health plans are unable to participate in the new health care exchanges or receive tax credits and reduced cost-sharing that make coverage more affordable.
"Bottom line, this is about making needed improvements to the Affordable Care Act," said Pryor. "Our bill is a smart, common-sense way to ensure clergy and church employees have the same opportunities as other Arkansans to keep the health care coverage that best meets their needs."
By allowing church health plans to be "qualified church plans," The Church Health Plan Act of 2013 would help level the playing field between commercial health plans and church health plans. Under this new category, churches would be eligible to receive the small employer tax credits, exchange subsidies, and participants would be allowed to stay in their existing plans. This bill has received the backing of the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church.