MASP celebrates 50 years of health care

Multiply is one of 18 agencies to benefit from MASP's mutual aid approach to insurance for mission workers

Edgar Stoesz, Phil Leaman, Nancy and Carl Litwiller (left to right) served on a panel that reviewed the 50-year history of MASP. Keith Scheffel, (standing) executive director of the MASP, chaired the panel. Photo: Shannon Scheffel

Stakeholders from 18 member agencies of the Mutual Aid Sharing Plan (MASP) celebrated 50 years of mutual aid and missions at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Welcoming Place, August 27, 2019.

Multiply, the Mennonite Brethren global mission agency, has participated in MASP from the beginning.

MASP’s inauspicious birth took place in 1969 when Edgar Stoesz, an MCC staff member, overheard several Mennonite mission agency leaders talking about the rising costs of health insurance for service workers.

Stoesz, who led Mennonite Indemnity, Inc. (MII), an early risk-sharing initiative related to property, proposed a program to share risk in health coverage for international workers.

For the next 19 years Stoesz ran the MASP out of his “hip pocket,” alongside his work for MCC and MII. The 17 Anabaptist mission and service agencies who joined almost right away drew up an agreement among themselves and revised it over time. While first envisioned for overseas workers, the plan was so cost effective that the group voted to form a pool for domestic workers in 1972.

By the time they incorporated more formally in 1988, MASP had a combined membership of 4,762 workers and dependents. Participant numbers peaked at 5,292 in 1990, and two years later, the Reserve Fund which buffered agency spending passed the one-million-dollar mark.

Multiply, formerly MB Mission, has been part of the MASP since 1970, says Al Stobbe, of Multiply’s human resources department, who attended the celebration in Akron, Pennsylvania. “It is a good fit for us because of the collaboration with other Anabaptist mission organizations, cost savings (approximately $1,000,000 USD/year is saved in health care across the member organizations) and flexibility to meet our mandate of a mission to go to the least reached (most plans do not include coverage in conflict areas of the world).”

Keith Scheffel, executive director of the MASP since 2017, led the 50-year celebrations with a panel featuring founder Stoesz, two past executive directors, Phil Leaman and Carl Litwiller, and past program coordinator Nancy Litwiller.

Stoesz chronicled the early days of trust and simplicity when he volunteered as director, taking only a few hours a year to record claims and payments in pencil in a simple black loose-leaf binder. But then he “sweat bullets” when a multi-million dollar claim in 1984 could have “bankrupted the whole Mennonite mission enterprise.”

Leaman and Nancy Litwiller spoke of HIPAA’s arrival and the necessary adjustments as MASP lost its “innocence of simplicity.” Carl Litwiller came on board as director in 2003, hammering out an improved reinsurance contract and piloting the group through the massive changes necessitated by the Affordable Care Act.

Stoesz said, “Truthfully, I’m surprised MASP is still around. My hat is off to Carl Litwiller for accomplishing that, and to the membership for hanging in there through a time of change and uncertainty.”

Scheffel said he’s grateful for “the Anabaptist ingenuity guided by an unwavering commitment to mutual aid in missions” that has brought the MASP to this point. He believes that the MASP model provides one of the most affordable ways for an organization to provide health care coverage for its employees.

“We have not had a growth mentality in the past,” Scheffel said, “But I look forward to identifying and inviting new organizations into this program of mutual aid. I believe there are like-minded ministries, churches and agencies that would welcome participation if they knew the MASP was available to them.”

Current enrollment stands at 1,968. Last year’s budget was $7.4 million and the fiscal year ended with a surplus of $917,000.

Quoting actuary Rick Burd from Contribution Health, Scheffel said that compared to commercial markets, the MASP structure provides approximately $1 million savings a year.

The celebration events also included a banquet and attending the theatrical presentation of “Jesus” at Sight and Sound, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Participants at the 50th anniversary celebrations also received a copy of the new release, When We All Pull Together: A 50-year history of the Mutual Aid Sharing Plan, 1969-2019 authored by Jewel Showalter. Copies are available on Amazon for $3.60.

by Jewel Showalter for MASP

MASP Member Agencies:

  1. Brethren In Christ U.S. World Missions, Mechanicsburg, PA
  2. Christian Peacemaker Team, Chicago, IL
  3. Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service, Elgin, IL
  4. Eastern Mennonite Missions, Salunga, PA
  5. Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, Fort Wayne, IN
  6. Franconia Mennonite Conference, Lansdale, PA
  7. Friendship Community, Lititz, PA
  8. Marysville Grace Brethren Church, Marysville, OH
  9. Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, PA
  10. Mennonite Church Canada, Winnipeg, MB
  11. Mennonite Disaster Service, Lititz, PA
  12. Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Waterloo, ON
  13. Mennonite Mission Network, Elkhart, IN
  14. Multiply (formerly MB Mission), Abbotsford, BC
  15. Rosedale Bible College, Irwin, OH
  16. Rosedale International (Formerly Rosedale Mennonite Missions), Columbus, OH
  17. Ten Thousand Villages, Akron, PA
  18. Virginia Mennonite Missions, Harrisonburg, VA


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here