Charles Heup, pastor at Good Shepherd, Plymouth, Wis., discovered he had Cystic Fibrosis (CF) when he was in college. Now 59, he has been controlling the disease through daily treatment and highly specialized medication. His lungs operate at less than 40 percent of their capacity, but the treatment and medication keep him functioning normally, a blessing to this pastor, husband, and father.
Heup’s congregation offers its called workers WELS VEBA health care coverage.
“Every time my doctor says we need something, we submit it to WELS VEBA and VEBA has covered everything that we’ve needed to do, including a new medication,” says Heup.
The Husby family had a similar experience with their WELS VEBA coverage. The evidence is displayed proudly on their refrigerator—an explanation of benefits from Cassie Husby’s recent double lung transplant. The cost: $494,000. What the Husbys owed: $0.
“WELS VEBA is a program that works so well that I don’t even have to think about it,” says Jeremy Husby, pastor at Peace, Hartford, Wis. “It allows me to be able to focus on the things that are important—my wife’s health, my daughter, and my ministry.”
WELS established the health care system called WELS VEBA more than 30 years ago to provide for its workers’ health care needs. About 80 percent of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod calling bodies provide this nationwide, long-term health coverage to their pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and lay workers.
“WELS VEBA’s strength lies in the large number of workers and calling bodies across the country that join together and participate in our synod’s health plan,” says Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans. “In this way, WELS VEBA has been able to provide consistent, comprehensive benefits to our workers and their families for generations.”
Knowing that coverage will remain intact offers peace of mind to called workers when they receive calls to different ministries or congregations. “[Health care coverage] doesn’t even factor into my decision,” says Heup. “I can focus on the question all called workers should focus on when they get a call: ‘Where can I serve the Lord with the talents he has given me.’ ”
Through WELS VEBA, health care costs of covered workers are shared across all participating calling bodies throughout the synod. Churches and schools don’t have to worry about the cost of benefits when making a call, since the plan’s premium costs are the same across all age groups. WELS VEBA also doesn’t charge higher premiums based on an individual’s medical care needs. It protects called workers and their calling bodies by ensuring comprehensive coverage for all participants in the plan.
“With WELS VEBA rates consistent across all ages and because the vetting of plans has already been done, we can focus on the ministry when making decisions about calling our called workers and not get hung up on details like insurance,” says Stan Bothe, congregation president at Peace, Green Lake, Wis.
He continues, “We’re not big and we don’t have unlimited funding, so to know we can offer our teachers and our pastor a good health plan that will meet their needs and that they can take with them if they should be called into a new ministry is a relief. It’s important to take care of the people who work in the ministry.”
Volume 101, Number 11
Issue: November 2014
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