WELS Pension Contribution Holiday – October 2020

The WELS Retirement Program Commission is pleased to announce a one-quarter contribution holiday for the WELS Pension Plan (the “Plan”). No Plan contributions will be due for the October-December 2020 quarter.  Active workers will continue to earn Plan benefits for eligible service performed during the October-December 2020 quarter, and Plan benefits will continue to be paid to retired workers and surviving spouses.

In addition, the July 2020 quarterly Plan invoices will be generated and mailed in early June to support ministries in their efforts to make timely retirement contribution payments under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

During this uncertain time, the Commission is pleased to provide relief to WELS ministries that will total approximately $5 million in savings. In scheduling the contribution holiday for October 2020, the Commission’s goal is to provide relief as soon as possible while allowing ministries to realize the full benefits of any loans received under the PPP. In addition, the Commission is thankful to the Lord for blessing us with the financial flexibility to pass on these savings while maintaining the Plan’s long-term viability.

WELS ministries will receive additional reminders of the contribution holiday in the coming months.

If you have questions, please contact the Benefit Plans Office by e-mail at bpo@wels.net or by phone at 414-256-3299.

 

WELS VEBA Premium Holiday – August 2020

The WELS VEBA Commission is pleased to announce a one-month premium holiday for the WELS VEBA Group Health Care Plan (“WELS VEBA”). No premiums will be due for WELS VEBA medical benefits for the month of August 2020. Premiums for voluntary benefits, such as dental, life, and optional long-term disability, will still be due and payable for the month of August 2020, as will any premiums due for WELS VEBA coverage prior to August 2020.

During this uncertain time, the Commission is pleased to provide relief to our participating organizations that will total approximately $4.2 million in savings. In scheduling the premium holiday for August 2020, the Commission’s goal is to provide relief as soon as possible while allowing ministries to realize the full benefits of any loans received under the federal Paycheck Protection Program. In addition, the Commission is thankful to the Lord for blessing WELS VEBA with the financial flexibility to pass on these savings while maintaining WELS VEBA’s long-term viability.

All sponsoring organizations that participate in WELS VEBA will receive communications in the coming months with more details and important items to note.

If you have questions, please contact the Benefit Plans Office by e-mail at bpo@wels.net or by phone at 414-256-3299.

 

CARES Act and WELS VEBA Benefits

The WELS VEBA Commission has approved several enhancements to the WELS VEBA health plan benefits in response to COVID-19 and the ongoing public health emergency.  A summary of the enhancements is provided below.

  • WELS VEBA will cover, at 100% of the plan’s maximum allowable amount, eligible billed charges for the diagnostic test for detection of the virus that causes COVID-19 and for a provider visit that results in an order for the diagnostic test (including a provider visit that is obtained by telephone or the internet).  This benefit will be provided for the duration of the COVID-19 national public health emergency.
  • WELS VEBA will cover, at 100% of the plan’s maximum allowable amount, eligible billed charges for covered medical services to treat COVID-19 for a member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.  This benefit will be provided from April 1, 2020 through May 31, 2020.
  • WELS VEBA will cover, at 100% of the maximum allowable amount, eligible billed charges for telephone and internet consultations obtained at Anthem LiveHealth Online providers.  This benefit will be provided from March 18, 2020 through June 14, 2020.
  • WELS VEBA will cover, up to the plan’s maximum allowable amount and subject to deductible and coinsurance, eligible billed charges for telephone and internet consultations obtained at providers that are not part of Anthem LiveHealth Online.  This benefit will be provided from March 18, 2020 through June 14, 2020.

 

2019 WELS Benefit Plans Annual Report

Through the WELS Benefit Plans, our church body walks together to take care of the health and financial wellbeing of the families of workers at WELS ministries.  The sole purpose of the WELS Benefit Plans is to support WELS ministry efforts by providing Benefit Plans that are comprehensive for workers, cost-effective for ministries, and consistent with God’s Word.

We invite you to read our 2019 annual report, which includes a summary of the benefits we provide and highlights of 2019 financial results.

 

Proposed changes to WELS retirement program

In 2017, a committee was appointed by WELS to research options for providing future retirement benefits to workers. The committee recently completed its work and recommends that some changes be made to the WELS retirement program.

In summary, it is proposed that the WELS Pension Plan be frozen and replaced with a defined contribution plan, wherein all eligible workers would receive contributions to their 403(b) accounts in the WELS Shepherd Plan. The proposed changes have been reviewed and endorsed by both the Conference of Presidents and Synodical Council.

The WELS Retirement Strategy Committee invites you to learn more about these proposed changes by viewing the presentation included above.

In addition to the presentation, a comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page is available here: FAQ page.

WELS has also developed a benefit comparison tool, which will help workers to compare their potential benefits at retirement under the current and proposed programs, and is available here: comparison tool.

The proposed changes will be a significant topic on the agenda at each district convention in June 2020. A standard resolution will be provided for each district to review, discuss, and vote on during the convention.  If each district approves the resolution with broad consensus, it is anticipated that the proposed changes will be implemented as of January 1, 2021.  Information will be included in the Report to the Twelve Districts leading up to district conventions.

It is important to note that, if the proposed changes are approved and implemented, all benefits earned under the WELS Pension Plan prior to its freeze date will be honored and paid according to the plan’s terms.  Benefits earned under the WELS Pension Plan will not be lost as a result of the proposed changes.

WELS is committed to providing detailed, transparent information during this process.  Please refer to the FAQ page which will be updated with additional information.  If you have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding the proposed changes, please submit them to WELS using the feedback form here: feedback form.

2020 WELS Benefit Plans Summary

The following provides a summary of the WELS Benefit Plans for 2020 and information to help newly-hired workers begin participating in the plans.

WELS VEBA

To participate in WELS VEBA, a new worker must enroll within 60 days of his/her employment start date.  To enroll, login to the WELS Benefits Service Center website at wels.bswift.com or call 1-800-487-8322 (option 1).

WELS Pension Plan

Participation in the WELS Pension Plan is automatic for called workers upon acceptance of a formal call issued by WELS.  Called workers do not need to complete an enrollment form to participate in the WELS Pension Plan.

WELS Shepherd Plan

Contact the calling body to which you have been assigned to determine if they have adopted the Shepherd Plan and to obtain enrollment instructions.

 

2020 WELS Pension Plan Contribution Rates

The 2020 contribution rates for the WELS Pension Plan are now available on this page.

The 6% increase was approved by the WELS Retirement Program Commission to continue its efforts to improve the Plan’s funded status and recover from the 2008-09 market downturn.

 

2020 WELS VEBA Health Plan Rates

The 2020 premium rates for the WELS VEBA Group Health Care Plan will increase by 2% for all plan options over the current 2019 rates.  This will mark the second consecutive year in which the WELS VEBA health plan rates have increased by 2%.  The WELS VEBA health plan has experienced better-than-expected claims costs and investment returns over the past 18 months, which has allowed the WELS VEBA Commission to limit the 2020 rate increase to 2% while maintaining adequate reserves.

The deductibles for WELS VEBA Plan 3 will increase to $2,800/individual and $5,600/family per IRS regulations to remain qualified for use with a Health Savings Account.  No other changes to cost-sharing amounts (e.g. deductibles) or covered services are expected for the 2020 plan year.

In addition, the WELS VEBA Commission has approved a full open enrollment that will run from November 1, 2019 through December 2, 2019 for coverage effective January 1, 2020.  All eligible workers will have the opportunity to enroll for new coverage or make changes to their existing WELS VEBA coverage.  Open enrollment materials will be mailed to eligible workers in late-October.

Please carefully consider this opportunity to enroll in WELS VEBA, as a full open enrollment is not guaranteed to be offered every year.

New Website for Sponsoring Organizations

The Benefit Plans Office is pleased to introduce a new website with content dedicated for use primarily by sponsoring organization representatives, such as treasurers, business managers, and other organizational leaders. Visit the website at: https://resources.welsbpo.net.

Initial content includes information for organizations to prepare for the upcoming 2019 WELS VEBA limited open enrollment period, general information about the WELS Benefit Plans, and resources to assist organizational representatives in their year-round administrative activities. We encourage sponsoring organization representatives to use this new website as a primary resource and refer to it frequently.

2018 Benefits Guide

If you are a new worker at a WELS ministry organization or would simply like to learn more about the benefits available through the WELS Benefit Plans, we encourage you to read the 2018 WELS Benefit Plans Guide at the link below.  The Guide provides a brief overview of the WELS VEBA Group Health Care Plan, the WELS Pension Plan and the WELS Shepherd Plan.

If you have questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact the WELS Benefit Plans Office by email to bpo@wels.net or by calling 1-800-487-8322.