Your Responsibilities

Administering the Plans

As a sponsoring organization representative, it is important that you understand your obligations in administering the Plans and are prepared to provide support and guidance for your workers when they need it.

Please remember that the Benefit Plans Office staff are also on hand to help if you have any questions or need further support.

Your obligations

Each sponsoring organization is obligated to the following:

  • To notify the Benefit Plans Office of the employment of new workers, the termination of employment, the granting and renunciation of leaves of absences, and other facts or events relevant in the operation of the WELS Benefit Plans.
  • To inform its workers of their eligibility for membership in the WELS Benefit Plans and their responsibility to elect coverage, as applicable.
  • To permit each of its workers who desires to enroll as a WELS VEBA member to enroll and to enroll the worker’s dependents.
  • To comply with the billing requirements established by the VEBA Commission, Retirement Program Commission and Benefit Plans Office.
  • To retain any employment or factual information related to the above item until any issue under the WELS Benefit Plans has been resolved.
  • To promptly distribute any communication provided by VEBA Commission, Retirement Program Commission or Benefit Plans Office to members enrolled through the organization.
  • To determine the amount of financial support available to workers for WELS VEBA coverage and inform workers in a timely manner.

Onboarding a new worker

When a new worker begins employment at your organization, we encourage you to complete the following steps to orient the worker to the WELS Benefit Plans and ensure that they are aware of their opportunity to participate:

  • Complete and return the New Hire Information Form to the Benefit Plans Office.
  • Provide the worker with a copy of the current New Worker Benefits Guide.
  • Inform the worker of their right to enroll in WELS VEBA, or make changes to their WELS VEBA coverage if currently enrolled (i.e. if the worker had WELS VEBA coverage through their former WELS/ELS organization).
  • Inform the worker of the amount of financial support available for WELS VEBA coverage from your organization.
  • Inform the worker that, if they wish to enroll in WELS VEBA or make changes to their WELS VEBA coverage, the worker must complete the enrollment process through the WELS Benefits Service Center within 60 days of the start date of their new call or position, either online at wels.bswift.com or by phone at 1-800-487-8322 (option 1). Note that the effective date for new WELS VEBA coverage will be the date the worker completes the enrollment process.

Employment changes

A change in employment status could include many types of events, such as a worker changing from a half-time position to a full-time position, taking a new call or position to a new sponsoring organization, beginning a leave of absence, or ending WELS/ELS service (e.g. retirement, resignation, etc.).

  • To report a change in employment status for a pastor, inform the District President of the change.
  • To report a change in employment status for a called teacher or called staff minister, inform the District President and the WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools office of the change.
  • To report a change in employment status for a lay/non-called worker, report the change to the Benefit Plans Office by email to bpo@wels.net or by calling 414-256-3299.

When a worker takes a new call or position

When a worker takes a new call or position to a new sponsoring organization, their WELS VEBA coverage and WELS Pension Plan participation in effect at the former sponsoring organization will automatically carry over to the new sponsoring organization when reported per the above. The new sponsoring organization will be billed for the worker’s WELS VEBA and Pension benefits beginning with the next applicable billing period (month for VEBA, quarter for Pension). If the worker wishes to make a change to their WELS VEBA coverage, or if your organization supports a different WELS VEBA coverage level, the worker must complete the enrollment process through the WELS Benefits Service Center within 60 days of the employment start date at your organization for the change to become effective.

When a worker retires

When a worker retires, it is important to report the change as soon as possible, preferably at least three months in advance of the anticipated retirement date. This will provide the worker with sufficient time to ensure a smooth transition to retirement benefits, such as Medicare and the WELS Pension Plan. Please encourage workers to contact the Benefit Plans Office for more information about the retirement benefits available through WELS.

When a worker terminates employment

When a worker terminates employment, it is important to report the change as soon as possible so that the worker can be provided with information to continue WELS VEBA coverage and/or begin receiving WELS Pension Plan benefits, as applicable. WELS VEBA coverage does not automatically continue simply because your organization has offered to pay WELS VEBA premiums for a period of time following the last day worked. WELS VEBA coverage will automatically terminate on the last day of the month in which the worker’s employment ends. If the worker wishes to continue WELS VEBA coverage beyond that date, the worker must elect continuation coverage through the WELS Benefits Service Center within 60 days of the last day worked.

Family status changes

If a worker at your organization gains or loses a dependent, such as through marriage, birth or adoption, the worker is responsible to report the change to the WELS Benefits Service Center and request any applicable changes to their WELS VEBA coverage. Changes must be reported within 60 days of the date of the family status change.

Benefit decision & funding support

Responsibility for coverage elections and funding levels

WELS VEBA is a worker choice plan, which means that each worker can select any plan option and cover any eligible family members that they wish. Your role as a sponsoring organization is to determine the level of financial support that you will provide to your workers for the cost of WELS VEBA coverage.

We encourage you to carefully consider the financial support for WELS VEBA coverage that your organization will provide to its workers, being mindful of the costs that both your organization and its workers can afford to pay. It’s important to clearly communicate the financial support for WELS VEBA coverage that your organization will provide each year so that workers can make informed decisions when enrolling for WELS VEBA coverage.

Please note that if your organization shares the cost of WELS VEBA coverage with its workers, your organization is responsible to timely remit to the Benefit Plans Office any amounts paid by workers, through payroll deductions or other means.

Sponsoring organization is not the policyholder: Because the worker is the policyholder for WELS VEBA coverage, it is the worker’s responsibility to make all enrollment and coverage change requests through the WELS Benefits Service Center. You cannot make changes to a worker’s WELS VEBA coverage on their behalf, even if your organization has agreed to pay the full cost of a worker’s WELS VEBA coverage.

Estimates for future rate changes for budget purposes

WELS VEBA health plan rates are conservatively estimated to increase by 10% per year on an ongoing basis. A more precise estimate of the rate change for the upcoming year is generally available by mid-July, with actual rates for the upcoming year posted on the WELS Benefit Plans Office website by the end of August.

WELS Pension Plan rates are estimated to increase by approximately 5% per year for the foreseeable future. Actual rates for the upcoming year are generally posted on the BPO website by the end of May.

Billing procedures

See below for an overview of key billing procedures for sponsoring organization representatives.

How to remit payment

Checks for premium payments should be made payable to WELS. Payment, including the bottom portion of the invoice, should be mailed to the Benefit Plans Office lockbox at the following address:

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
PO Box 856840
Minneapolis,MN 55485-6840

Please note: Premium payments should not be sent to the Benefit Plans Office in Waukesha.

ACH payment program

The Benefit Plans Office offers an automated payment option via Automated Clearing House (ACH). Participation in the ACH payment program will ensure that premium amounts due will be paid in full and on time. Please contact the WELS Benefits Service Center on 1-800-487-8322 (option 1) for more details.

Automated bill payment services

Organizations that use automated bill payment services to pay premiums should include their organization’s name, address, and plan for which payment is being made (e.g. Health, Pension, etc.) on the check that is sent to the Benefit Plans Office lockbox.

Members who use automated bill payment services to pay premiums should include their member ID number and plan for which payment is being made (e.g. Health, Dental, etc.) on the check that is sent to the Benefit Plans Office lockbox.

Billing frequencies and payment deadlines

WELS VEBA benefits, including Medical, Group Term Life, Long Term Disability, and Dental, are billed on a monthly basis. Invoice payments are due on the first day of each month, and should be paid as billed.

The WELS Pension Plan is billed on a quarterly basis. Invoice payments are due on the first day of each calendar quarter, and should be paid as billed.

Pension late fees

The grace period for payment of WELS Pension Plan invoices is 20 calendar days. WELS Pension Plan invoice payments received after the 20-day grace period will be subject to a 2% late fee.

Full details of the Pension Plan late fee can be found in the Pension Plan Late Payment Penalty Policy Summary.

Pro-rating

Premium amounts for the WELS Benefit Plans are not pro-rated, either by month (for WELS VEBA) or by quarter (for WELS Pension). Please see the examples below:

  • WELS VEBA: A newly-hired worker enrolls for WELS VEBA health plan coverage effective August 10th. Payment of the entire monthly WELS VEBA premium for August is due.
  • WELS Pension: A worker accepts a new call to serve at a different sponsoring organization effective August 1st. Payment of the entire quarterly WELS Pension premium for July is due from the organization at which the worker was serving on July 1st.

Refunds

If your organization or a member has no future invoices on which an overpayment can be credited, a refund will be issued by check or ACH (based on the original payment method used) upon approval by the Benefit Plans Office. In no event will a refund be issued more than 12 months after a payment was received in the Benefit Plans Office lockbox.