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August 6, 1993

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9 The Message Monthly -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 -- Bishop's Forum -- Medical health insurance: matter of justice Following is an edited series of three columns by Bishop Get- Ielfinger, dealing with lay em- ployee medical health insurance. The columns were originally printed in the Message, July 9, July 16 and July23. The fiscal year On July 1, 1993, most of the business world began a new fiscal ear, a new financial year, a new udget year. As individuals, because the tax year is a calendar year, we base our personal financial planning on a January I to December 31 year. Governments are all over the map with re- spect to the financial years they follow. Indiana does follow the ordinary fiscal year for its bien- nial budget. Because each organization can declare its own fiscal year, the Catholic Diocese of Evans- ville has established September 1 through August 31 as its fiscal year. The reasons given for choosing this "frame of reference" seem to reflect the "school year." Con- tracts with school personnel used to begin with the "day after Labor Day." That obviously im- pacted parish budgets at that moment, so it seemed a good time to begin the "fiscal year." It became a part of our institution that September 1 through August 31 became our fiscal year. Things do change with time. Most of our schools begin classes, not the Tuesday after Labor Day -- the first Monday in September -- but long before that date. Most begin around third week in August. So, one of the Original bases for choosing our fiscal year has changed. In fact, many of our school personnel begin their contracts early in August. About now you may ask: "What is the point of this exercise?" : The answer is simple. The answer is compli- Cated. The simple one first. The decision as to the scal year is ours to make. In that sense it is arbi- In other words, it is whatever works best for us in our day to day operations as a church com- [ity. It is not something one changes handily. a change requires a lot of "accounting gym- nastics" for which most of our finance councils ld )asters are not prepared. Any such change I be made very deliberately and with broad Consultation. It is complicated to the extent we are also with other fiscal years that do not match ours. As an example, Catholic Charities 3ates in the United Way Funding. For this their budget year is based on the calendar Year, but they are also funded by the Annual biocesan Appeal which follows the diocesan fis- cal year. Our contract for the health insurance pro- for our lay employees is also on a calendar Year. For this reason, the calculation for monthly Premiums does not match our calendar. We have to calculate -- i.e. to guess -- what the premium might be for our fiscal year beginning each Sep- tember. Rate adjustments are, of course, based on ttSage, since insurance companies are in the busi- riess of making money, not losing it. Since we live work in the market place, BISHOP RALD A. GETTELFINGER we are not exempt from its pres- sures. Health insurance is one of those difficult realities all employ- ers must face. So must we. Because we do not have a diocesan policy requiring hiring institutions to provide health cov- erage for all employees, this be: comes a very large financial issue since underwriters of programs in- sist on some stability of the in- sured group, otherwise we pay the price. At this date, our health pro- gram for our lay employees is not viable! Mixed messages I had considerable trouble in writing this fol- low-up to my column of last week. There are three basic reasons. First, the Church has been very clear about the rights of employees and their relationship with the employer. Pope Leo XIII, well over one hundred years ago wrote most clearly that em- ployees have rights in the marketplace. Forty years later there was a restatement of those funda- mental principles. Vatican Council II addressed the role of laity in the Church. The rights and obligations of the laity are clearly spelled out in the revision of the Universal Law of the Church of 1983. The Church has not wavered from that posi- tion from the great social letters of the church ex- pounding on this very delicate relationship of em- ployer to employee. The Holy Father and bishops of our country have continued to teach on this matter of the rights of the employee to just wages and benefits. Most recently, at our June meeting in New Or- leans, the bishops of the United States unani- mously adopted the document, "A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform: Protecting Human Dignity, Pursuing the Common Good." That document and others proclaimed by the Na- tional Conference of Catholic Bishops of'the United States have left no doubt about the posi- tion of the Church and current Catholic teaching on these matters. Second, we the bishops and you the faithful, have held and preached one thing in a very uni- versal and national manner, yet we have failed to apply it consistently. Need I remind you of the housekeepers, jani- tors, lay teachers, and religious men and women who have received salaries over the years that were not commensurate to their services. Much has been accomplished in this area since the Vati- can Council, yet there is much yet to be done. Some of these former practices have continued during my tenure as bishop these past four years. What is acceptable in the marketplace with respect to employer and employee does not al- ways reflect social justice. On the other hand, we are reminded in Sacred Scripture that we are cer- tainly in the world but are not to be of it. The Church, if it is to be authentic must be both prophet and subject of its own prophecy. The Church, you and I, must practice what we preach. The Church in our time can be shown to be both in the world and of it, whether we like it or not. We live and work in the public forum as we are part of it. All too often, however, when the challenge or test conies, we tend to employ the exemption we enjoy as a "not for profit" organize- tion. We ourselves have not ahvays applied our own principles with respect to our employees as is expected of those who are "non-exempt," and of the world. Whose fault is it? Assigning fault for failure or omission is not my intent. Seeking remedies, finding resolution in those instances where we have failed must in- deed be our agenda, yours and mine. Members of our Church who are also our em- ployees find themselves caugbt in "Catch 22." The third reason has to do with the various ways in which we as a Church have applied the principles of justice. Multiple Sensitivities Comparisons are more times than not odi- ous. In other words, there is always the danger of hurt feelings and downright angry reaction when treatment of one person or group of persons is perceived to be out of balance with others even when there are reasonable explanations. I now dare to point out some areas of sensi- tivity in our own diocese. First, there are many people of our diocese who are without benefits that many employees of the diocese now enjoy. These include retirement and the availability of medical insurance. Second, while employees of parishes and in- stitutions within the diocese have medical insur- ance available to them, some individuals must pay the premium while others have their individ- ual medical insurance premium paid by the parish or institution. Third, some few parishes and institutions pay the premium for both the individual em- ployee as well as that for the dependents. Fourth, our priests find themselves in the unenviable position of managing parish budgets. They are forced to make hard employment deci- sions while the same parish budget provides them their medical insurance coverage. They have as well a guaranteed retirement benefit. They also have what few other lay and religious have, namely, job security. The above four facts demonstrate that there is great unevenness in the application of the principles of social justice in that area of the mar- ketplace we call church. The current crisis in the management of health care costs in our country gives us all a chance to review our personal circumstances. The present concern for providing appropriate benefits for those who have committed them- selves to the service of the church, be they clergy, lay or religious requires us to look beyond our own personal circumstance and look to the com- mon good. If we cannot afford to employ personnel to cart3' on the mission of the Church, we must ac- knowledge our poverty. We may not impoverish others by denying them that to which they have a right. If we are to be employers, we must be iust in providing appropriate benefits. If we are to be employees of the church, we must be accountable first of all by preparing our- selves for the iob. We must then carry it outwith fidelity and loyalty. If we cannot afford to be just  he we em- ployer or employee  we are not capable of being authentic followers of the Lord. HAUBSTADT ELECTRIC Licensed. Bonded Insured Industrial, Commercial and Residential P.O. Box 405 Haubstad, IN 47639 1-800-766.2787 Peoples rust _ Company SOUTH MAIN STREET P.O. BOX 191 INDIANA 4744" 1 SINCE 1888 Schum Inc. DALE, INDIANA 937-4921 I II II II Hi-Tech Sheet Metal Inc. Residential. Industrial & Commercial Heating & Cooling Installation Sales & Service [ 422-9242 I Operated by Michael and Potr/c/m Koch 15 S, Third Avenue, Evansvil|e i I II I I III "Where customers send their friends" Open nightly til 9 p.m. I,Tcbc"iher & US 231 IOUTN -- JASPEI, IN - 482-2222 Geg TOYOTA Did You Know: ,1-800-937-USA1 OLDS CIERA is most trouble free car made in Amera J. D. Powers I 1 I I ] / I =.1 II II JI I MILLER & MILLER ",4 family name you can trust" 424-9274 III I I II . HI I I I SCHNEIDER II I [11 I II I I [ HEATING & A/C, INC. RESIDENTIAL COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL 118 W. FRANKLIN STREET, EVANSVILLE, IN 47710 24 HR. SERVICE (812) 428-2665 * JEFF SCHNEIOER