While a sour economy and rising costs make it harder for small businesses to afford health coverage, one group of employees is especially vulnerable: clergy.
Many denominations provide health care for clergy, but pastors of small and independent churches can be hard-hit. Some clergy latch on to their spouses' health care, or take a second job that offers insurance. But even those solutions are hard to come by.
“So many churches are small and too many pastors are uninsured,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), in a statement. “As clergy age with the rest of America's population, we may see a growing list of pastors entering retirement with bankrupting medical bills.”
An NAE survey last year found 80 percent of respondents said they receive health insurance outside of their church. At the time, Anderson called it a growing problem.
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“It's so complicated,” Anderson said. “You take all of the variables of church sizes and denominations and you multiply that by all the laws and insurance plans. It's difficult to find a plan for anyone.”
He said layoffs and downsizing at churches have left many clergy members at risk because religious institutions are exempt from buying unemployment insurance.