He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
On that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen, and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name, says the LORD who does this.
I saw the LORD standing beside the altar, and he said: Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away, not one of them shall escape. Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel: Fallen, no more to rise, is maiden Israel; forsaken on her land, with no one to raise her up. For thus says the Lord GOD: The city that marched out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which marched out a hundred shall have ten left.
Then the LORD said, "See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."
Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel! For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth — the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!
Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod, and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, "Assemble yourselves on Mount Samaria, and see what great tumults are within it, and what oppressions are in its midst." They do not know how to do right, says the LORD, those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.
So, I will press you down in your place, just as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain their strength, nor shall the mighty save their lives;
The Rev. Idalia C. Negrón Caamaño, San Juan, Puerto Rico, was elected June 16 to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Caribbean Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The election was held during the Synod Assembly June 15-16 at Santísima Trinidad ELC, Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Negrón Caamaño was elected on the fourth ballot with 61 votes to 21 votes for the Rev. Luis I. Ehandia, pastor of Del Buen Pastor in Santurce, Puerto Rico.
From 2003 to 2015 the bishop-elect served as part-time pastor of San Pablo Lutheran Church in San Juan and part-time director for evangelical mission in the Caribbean Synod. She has served full-time in the synod since 2017.
Negrón Caamaño received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of San Juan in 1969. She received a Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 2003. The seminary is one of the seven ELCA seminaries.
Negrón Caamaño will be installed Oct. 6 at Christian Church-Disciples of Christ El Señorial in Cupey, Puerto Rico.
The Rev. Felipe Lozada-Montañez has served as bishop of the Caribbean Synod since 2007 and will retire Aug. 31.
- - -
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.
In response to the ever-changing health care landscape, the ELCA and Portico have worked together to design changes to ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits that will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. The majority of members with these benefits will be positively affected by enhanced coverage and reduced monthly contributions, or premiums.
Continuing a Tradition of Care
Since its formation, the ELCA has been committed to caring for the well-being of churchworkers. Portico has overseen the ELCA's health, retirement, and other benefits since 1988, when the ministries of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches merged to form the ELCA.
At that time, the ELCA agreed to subsidize health coverage for eligible retirees and family members who participated in a predecessor church plan. The subsidies vary in amount based on several factors, including age and years of sponsored service. Currently, the ELCA subsidizes ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits for four out of five retirees and spouses. The subsidies range from fewer than $5 to several hundred dollars per month.
Along with the subsidies, the ELCA inherited a funding shortfall. The church has sought to close the gap through funding from the churchwide budget and by collecting a "retiree support" contribution from congregations. However, health care costs have outpaced what anyone imagined in 1988, and life expectancies have continued to grow. As a result, retirees' medical costs have increased significantly and, under the current approach, the ELCA estimates a continued shortfall.
In 2016, the ELCA Church Council formed an ad hoc working group to recommend a plan to sustain this important care. In a video message to members, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shared: "In response to Church Council decisions, we have worked with Portico to make changes that will reduce costs for you and our church and allow us to continue the care and networks of health care providers you count on for years to come. I am very pleased with the outcome, and I believe you will be too."
Enhanced Coverage, Lower Costs Expected
Effective Jan. 1, 2019, Portico has selected Humana to insure its hospital and medical benefits as a group Medicare Advantage plan. These new benefits will replace the Medicare supplement currently administered by Mercer.
The change will affect the nearly 12,000 ELCA Medicare-Primary members, including retirees, spouses, dependents, members receiving disability benefits, and churchworkers who continue active service beyond age 65. Covering more than 8.5 million Medicare enrollees, Humana's economies of scale will help reduce the monthly amount that most ELCA Medicare-Primary plan members contribute, while preserving today's robust coverage.
In addition, Humana will offer new wellness programs that have been requested by members, said Portico president and CEO, the Rev. Jeff Thiemann. "We are excited about the enhanced care and cost savings this change will bring for members."
In 2019, members with ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits will also have prescription drug coverage administered by Express Scripts and dental coverage administered by Delta Dental, the same companies serving members today.
With this change, the ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits will no longer cover Medicare-eligible members living outside the United States and its territories. Less than 0.1% of Portico's current membership has this coverage.
Subsidy Change Designed to Strengthen Long-Term Viability
Also changing Jan. 1, 2019, the ELCA Church Council has determined that subsidies will become a fixed dollar amount instead of a percentage off the monthly health contribution. The amount is expected to increase 3% per year beginning in 2020, as approved by the council.
For most eligible members, the 2019 subsidy will start at the same dollar amount as today, with some exceptions for members whose subsidies are subject to different terms. For example, a monthly subsidy of $100 in 2018 will start at $100 in 2019 and grow by 3% to $103 in 2020.
Because Portico expects members' monthly health contributions to decrease next year, the subsidy will actually fund a greater portion of the monthly contribution amount. As a result, most retirees can look forward to paying a lower monthly contribution in January.
In fact, some older retirees currently receive such a large subsidy percentage that their 2019 subsidy dollar amount will exceed their 2019 monthly contribution. The excess will be applied toward those individuals' future monthly ELCA health contributions.
It's difficult to accurately predict future health care costs, but if health care costs increase at a greater rate than the subsidy does, the portion of contribution paid by the member may increase over time.
Portico to Share Details, Help Ensure a Smooth Transition
Members directly affected by these changes are being contacted in July and will receive personalized details, including 2019 subsidy and contribution amounts, starting in late September. Likewise, in July Portico is sharing advance notice of these changes with members currently age 64 who will be eligible for Medicare in January.
To help ease the change to Humana for retired members, Portico will automatically enroll them in the 2019 option that's most similar to what they have today. Just as in recent years, retired members who prefer a different ELCA Medicare-Primary option ― Economy, Standard, or Premium ― can elect it this fall during Portico's Annual Enrollment.
Members with ELCA Medicare-Primary benefits who are sponsored, on leave from call, or disabled will also transition to the new Medicare Advantage benefits. Like today, these members will keep the Standard health benefit option in 2019. They will have a choice of options when they retire and receive subsidy details if they qualify.
In a joint letter to members, Eaton and Thiemann described these changes as a way to better withstand the decades-long dramatic increase in U.S. health care costs. "More importantly," they said, "this new approach means the church can carry on our time-honored tradition of supporting the well-being of faithful servants."