July 7th, 2012 – Today the Presbyterian Church (USA) took a step toward divestment from for-profit health insurance companies in the US by instructing the appropriate committee of the General Assembly to begin a process of information gathering. The Mission Through Responsible Investing Committee (MRTI) is instructed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to request information and explanations of health insurance companies. This information will focus especially on the insurers’ practices in regard to state and federal lobbying expenditures and political campaign contributions, government subsidies and profit margins, denials of claims, and top executives’ compensation packages. Other directives include a conversation with the Board of Pensions, the overseeing body that works with the health care provider, to ensure that the church’s health plan submits to the same standards that it asks of other insurers. Based on its analysis MRTI will evaluate the variance between church principles of universal access and affordability on the one hand and corporate objectives on the other. It will also assess the likelihood of significant change in corporate behavior.
In addition, the committee is to recommend measures to the appropriate Council of the church, including possible divestment from the health insurance companies, measures that will strengthen the integrity of the church’s practice. The relevant committees and councils are requested to report on their action to the General Assemblies of 2014 and 2016, with an eye to guiding individual Presbyterians, congregations and mid-councils, in relation to their own investment holdings in this major part of the economy.
Finally, all official bodies are encouraged to continue to support cost-effective health coverage for all through the single payer (or expanded Medicare) model common elsewhere in the developed world, and to support making health care affordable and transparent.
The overture for this step originated with the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, was joined by the Presbyteries of Albany, New York City, Long Island and West Jersey, and was approved overwhelmingly by the Committee on Health Issues of the General Assembly on July 3, 2012.
Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos
Dora Pierce Professor of Bible – Louisville Presbyterian Seminary
Minister member of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery
21-01On Instructing MRTI to Study and Report Corporate Practices of Health Insurance Companies and Possible Divestment of Same—From the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky.
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended
In response to Item 21-01, that the 220th General Assembly (2012) approve the following alternate recommendation:
“1. The MRTI Committee is instructed to request information and explanations of health insurance company policy and practice on: state and federal lobbying expenditures and political/campaign contributions, government subsidies and profit margins related to provisions of the healthcare ‘reform’ legislation, aggregate data on increases in premiums and deductibles over the past ten years, categories and percentages of claims denied, and percentages of profits used in compensating top executives in comparison with return to shareholders.
“2. The MRTI Committee is instructed to be in conversation with the PC(USA) Board of Pensions to ensure the PC(USA) health plan submits to the same standards that PC(USA), through MRTI, asks of other insurers.
“3. Based on this corporate engagement and analysis, a summary of which shall be posted, MRTI is asked to evaluate the variance between church principles of universal access and affordability and corporate objectives, to assess the likelihood of significant change in corporate behavior, and to recommend to the GAMC and General Assembly measures, including possible divestment, that would strengthen the integrity of the church’s practice.
“4. The GAMC, the Presbyterian Foundation, and the Board of Pensions, in turn, are requested to report on their actions (or request guidance) to the 221st and 222nd General Assembly (2014) and (2016), with an eye to guiding individual Presbyterians, congregations, and mid councils in relation to their own investment holdings in this major part of the economy.
“5. The Office of Public Witness and other Presbyterian bodies are encouraged to continue to support cost-effective health coverage for all through the single payer (or expanded Medicare) model common elsewhere in the developed world, and, to support making health care affordable and transparent.”