Imagine it’s 1934. You face an enormous unexpected hospital bill and there’s no health fund to rely on. You’re unable to pay the bill so you present your case to a committee and hope the decision-makers see fit to give you some money towards it.
In May 1934 the executive committee of the Australian Union Conference gave five men the task of working out a scheme whereby all Church employees could make “weekly payments to prepare for adequate care during times of sickness”. Those men were: T W Hammond, R E Hare, G T Chapman, G E Adair and G S Fisher.
Today ACA provides private health cover of exceptional value and great choice for current and past employees of the Adventist Church and their families.
Four months later, their recommendations were adopted and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia started its own private health fund for employees: the Union Conference Medical Policy Fund.
Married workers contributed 6d (sixpence) each week and single workers 3d (threepenny). If you wanted health cover to include your parents or siblings, you had to pay 6d whether married or single. If you needed hospital treatment the fund covered 50 per cent of medical bills—up to the value of £20 (pounds) annually.
You couldn’t send a claim to the health fund unless the bill was more than £2.2s (two pounds, two shillings). Surprisingly—compared with today’s generous fund provisions—back then you were not allowed to claim for obstetrics, dentistry, tubercular-related illness, mental illness or chronic illness.
The health fund existed only for workers in conferences, church institutions, mission fields and student workers. The organisation employing the worker was asked to subsidise the fund to an amount equal to what the worker contributed to it.
In an article in the Australasian Record in 1936, it was reported the fund had 920 contributors. “The fund has been running for a little over 18 months and is proving to be helpful and successful,” the article reads. “We have had 300 claims up to June 30 last, and we have paid out in claims £1,455.”
In 1940 the fund had 1159 contributors. Just over 1900 claims were made that year, with the average claim being £5. In 1954 the Australasian Record again reported that the fund was proving to be a great safety net for its members. “A large number of our workers . . . have received substantial benefits from this fund, for themselves and their dependent relatives. The small weekly contribution by the worker to this medical fund has proved to be a very economical insurance against heavy medical expenses.”
AUC staff with ACA founders in 1934.
The Adventist Church, as an employer, saw that the establishment of a national fund provided additional benefits: it addressed the growing problem of inconsistent medical policies for employees transferring between states of Australia.
In August 1971 ACA Health Benefits Fund was formalised. For 10 years, from 1976-1986, ACA wasn’t registered with the Australian Government as there appeared no advantage in doing so. However a decision was made in April 1986 to re-register—in part to provide a “continuation of entitlement” when employees transferred to other health funds when they left Church employment.
A lot has changed since those early days. Today ACA provides private health cover of exceptional value and great choice for current and past employees of the Adventist Church and their families.
“The Adventist Church has long been committed to the health and wellbeing of its employees,” says ACA manager Jody Burgoyne. “Establishing a health fund was part of its ‘people ministry’. It helps the people who work for the Church to help the Church fulfil its mission. We value our employees and their families, and that’s why ACA recently expanded its offering to provide private health cover for extended family members as well—not just immediate family.”