Providing for the medical needs of ministers and pastors are different from that of missionaries. Typically, ministers and pastors are billeted in a certain area for the long term while missionaries move from place to place, even country to country.
Health Insurance for Missionaries
For missionaries, many insurance companies have structured special insurance packages that include such contingencies as emergency medical evacuation, repatriation, medical treatment in other countries, insurance from violent attacks, and even normal travel insurance inclusions such as travel delay expenses and lost baggage insurance.
Often, missionary health insurance plans are group packages with worldwide coverage (as missionary work usually involves groups of people constantly on the move). For individual missionaries traveling with family, short-term insurance packages ranging from 30 days to 6 months are available that will cover the insured’s family as well.
Health Insurance for Ministers and Pastors
For home-bound ministers and pastors, the question is whether they avail of insurance as an employee of the church or as a self-employed individual. An employee of the church may avail of health and long-term care insurance where premiums are tax-deductible up to 7.5% and medical reimbursements are not considered income. Group insurance provided by the church for their employees is tax-free for policies up to $50,000 coverage.
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The Flexible Spending Account Option
Another option is to participate in flexible spending accounts, which are similar to health savings accounts but are typically limited to members of the spiritual community and can be availed through the employer church. The FSA contributions are deducted from salary prior to taxation, resulting in savings from reduced taxable income. The FSA can be used for eligible medical and health care expenses for the FSA holder and his dependents.
Ministers and pastors who claim self-employment have to report medical reimbursements as income, but may claim deductions up to 60% for private insurance premiums the remaining 40% subject to a 7.5% limitation. Self-employed ministers and pastors may find it advantageous to become members of organizations that seek to establish favorable coverage for health as well as retirement benefits by availing of group policies. Typical inclusions to group coverage include disability, life, retirement plans with special considerations for pastors and missionaries, and long-term care insurance.
Some insurance companies are offering alternative healthcare programs that target spiritual leaders, which carry lighter premiums. The rationale is that spiritual leaders presumably lead “cleaner” lifestyles and are at lower risk of some health risks such as sexually transmitted diseases and drug-induced medical problems.