What do you think? http://www.abpnews.com/news/news_detail.cfm?NEWS_ID=501 Rising costs prompt NAMB to cut medical benefits for future retirees Date: 02/08/2005 Source: 05-12 By Greg Warner ATLANTA (ABP) -- The North American Mission Board has eliminated some benefits for retiring employees in order to cut costs, prompting some of the SBC agency's 1,100 insured employees and missionaries to retire sooner than planned rather than lose the benefits they expected. A similar move by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has prompted several retirements in that organization. Cutting benefits has become an increasingly common way for denominational entities -- typically generous with benefits but less so with salaries -- to deal with slumping budgets. The NAMB rules affect all employees and missionaries who will retire from the agency, which is the evangelism and church-starting agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. The changes will not affect the mission board’s 1,000 current retirees. New NAMB retirees, who previously were covered by the agency's self-funded medical insurance, will now receive only Medicare benefits and a Medicare supplement. The retirees will pay a slightly larger share of the premiums for the supplement. Most affected by the changes are NAMB employees who retire early. NAMB now requires 15 years of service, instead of 10, to retire early, and the minimum age was raised from 50 to 55. Early retirees will no longer qualify for any NAMB medical insurance. They would qualify for Medicare and a supplement when they reach normal retirement age. According to the agency, healthcare expenses for NAMB missionaries, staff and retirees have increased by double-digit percentages each of the last three years. "A review of the agency’s health benefits last year revealed that one area where changes could be made without affecting current staff, missionaries and retirees was in health benefits for future retirees, primarily those who decide to retire early," according to the statement provided to Associated Baptist Press. NAMB said 360 employees and missionaries eligible for early retirement were notified of the changes late last year. Fourteen employees opted to retire under the old benefit system, which was available until Dec. 31. Missionaries have until March 31 to decide if they want to retire under the old benefits. "NAMB’s health and retirement benefits remain, in many respects, the most generous in the Southern Baptist Convention, and are more than competitive with other ministries as well as secular businesses," said Joseph Outlaw, director of human resources. The Atlanta-based NAMB has 425 employees on its staff. Of its 5,126 missionaries, about a third are career employees (including positions jointly funded with state Baptist conventions or local associations), a third are partially funded by the agency, and a third are self-funded missionaries, like Mission Service Corps workers. Not all take part in NAMB medical insurance. In the North Carolina convention, administrators recently instituted changes in medical coverage -- like NAMB, eliminating convention-paid medical insurance for employees who retire after Jan. 31. Additionally, future retirees will pay a larger portion of insurance costs. The move prompted the resignations of four long-time convention employees, including Bob Phillips, campus minister at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for 40 years.