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March 25, 2010

What Will the New Health Care Bill Mean for Churches?

Churches count the cost of coverage.

(Editor's Note: Since this post publishes, we've since released "Health Care Reform: How the new laws will affect your church.")

Now that President Obama has signed the health care reform bill into law, many churches are wondering what the impact will be on staffing costs.

“Does the church have to pay 100 percent of the employee’s premiums?” “Will we be required to cover our entire church daycare staff, which currently does not receive medical insurance as a benefit?” “Will we have to pay large fees and/or provide heathcare for our employees? Health insurance is very expensive and being forced to pay could mean we no longer can afford our small staff.”

These are the kinds of questions and concerns that are surfacing on discussion boards and through readers’ questions to us.

I can appreciate the trepidation many churches are feeling. We are in a very dynamic period, with several state attorneys general having filed legal challenges to the new law in recent days, and Senate Republicans engaging in parliamentary maneuvering. No one can say what the results of these efforts will be.

And, note two additional considerations: First, if the Republican Party regains control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections later this year, it will have the authority to defund implementation of many, if not most, of the provisions in the new law. Second, even if none of these roadblocks stop this legislation, many of the provisions in the law do not take effect immediately. Some do not take effect for several years.

The bottom line is that it is premature to say what all of the ramifications of this bill will be.

I am currently reviewing the impact of each provision in this 2,500-page bill on churches, while at the same time monitoring the potential obstacles to full implementation. I will be sharing the results of my analysis in upcoming articles for Church Law & Tax Report and Church Finance Today.

In the meantime, if you have questions on this new legislation, please feel free to submit them to: CLTReditor(at)christianitytoday.com.

Richard Hammar is senior editorial advisor for Your Church, Church Law & Tax Report, and Church Finance Today. He serves as legal counsel to the Assembly of God denomination. He is an attorney and CPA, specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is the author of more than 100 books, including the annual Church & Clergy Tax Guide, the Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, and his landmark work, Reducing the Risk: Keeping Your Ministry Safe from Child Sexual Abuse.

Related Tags: benefits, Budget, budgets, business administrators, church budgets, compensation, executive pastors, pastors, Richard Hammar, staff

Comments

Does employers with 50 or more employees mean just full time employees or part time included? An example of part time is nursery workers.

PLEASE STOP ASSUMING AND/OR IMPLYING THAT REPUBLICAN EQUALS CHRISTIAN AND THAT DEMOCRAT IS EQUIVALENT TO NON-CHRISTIAN OR IMMORAL. HOW INSULTING.

@t ransome--I just re-read Richard's post. I don't see any language that makes the assumptions/implications you suggest. Please elaborate.

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