Published March 6, 2014
Guidestone has temporarily halted enrollment in its Personal Plans medical plan for the 2014 calendar year.
The Dallas, TX-based Southern Baptist agency will continue to cover those enrolled as of Dec. 31 but is ceasing to accept new enrollees except as required by law due to marriage, birth, adoption, or similar qualifying event, Guidestone stated in a press release.
The temporary move is being implemented “in the midst of the current uncertainties related to the various implementations of the Affordable Care Act and the effect it is having on millions of Americans, and in an effort to preserve our Personal Plan for the long term,” the statement said.
SBC not a demonination
Guidestone has historically reminded the Southern Baptist Convention that the group of churches is not a denomination but “simply a fellowship, a convention, of more than 40,000 local, independent and autonomous churches cooperating together in ministry and missions. Consequently, unlike many denominations, we cannot mandate that our pastors and church workers be in our church health plans.”
70 percent of SBC church workers are high risk
The agency said that unique relationship requires it to underwrite its health policies but is still able to accept almost 80 percent of those who apply. Even so, nearly 70 percent of Southern Baptist church workers “are in the high risk category for heart disease and related issues such as diabetes. The stark truth is that many of us do not eat right and not enough of us exercise, resulting in an epidemic of obesity in the ministry.
Guidestone receives no Cooperative Program funds to supplement its medical program, “and thus is becomes a matter of amounts paid in versus claims paid out. If the Personal Plan was open to everyone with any and all kinds of pre-existing conditions it is forecasted that the entire program would be at risk in a short period of time due to excessive claims,” the release explained.
No underwriting with ACA
The Affordable Care Act mandates that there be no pre-existing conditions considered when providing health coverage, thus no underwriting is allowed.
Congress recognized the unique dynamic of Guidestone’s Personal Plan when it enacted an exemption to permit underwriting many several years ago, long before the ACA became law. However, since the recently implemented ACA does not address whether Guidestone’s ability to underwrite under federal law is still in effect, Guidestone is working through the 32-denomination-member Church Alliance toward “legislative relief” to clarify the policy.
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