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Annuity Board medical plan rates stay level on Jan. 1; PPOs will grow

DALLAS (BP)–The Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has announced there will be no general rate increases for its insurance and health care plans on Jan. 1, 1999. Also, the board announced plans to expand access to preferred provider organization networks and a new nationwide integrated pharmacy program for prescription drugs.
“As of Jan. 1, 1999, we plan to have access to a preferred provider organization (PPO) for the vast majority of Southern Baptist church employees,” said Douglas D. Day, managing director of insurance services for the board. The broad expansion of access will come through an arrangement with Private Healthcare Systems (PHCS), offering one of the nation’s largest provider networks.
“Annuity Board participants will now be joined with more than 5.7 million members of health plans coast to coast and in Alaska,” Day said. “Through PHCS, our participants will have access to preferred physicians, hospitals, specialty care centers and other health-care providers,” he said. The Private Healthcare Network of PHCS includes 2,300 hospitals and 270,000 physicians.
O. S. Hawkins, president of the Annuity Board, said, “We are keenly aware that affordability of health care is a huge concern for most of our pastors and other church staff members. Avoiding a Jan. 1 rate increase, and introducing other cost-saving measures, is the kind of good news we like to deliver.”
In addition to the PSP medical plan, the board’s long-term disability, life, accident and accidental death and dismemberment plans also will have no rate increase Jan. 1.
Day said a few groups in the Employer Security Program, a medical plan for institutions and churches with 10 or more employees, will have experience-based rate increases Jan. 1. Those employers will be individually contacted. “The only participants in the Personal Security Program who will have an increase Jan. 1 are those who cross an age bracket, add dependents or move to a region with higher rates,” Day said. Rates for the second half of 1999 will be reviewed in the spring.
Day emphasized the Personal Security Program offered by the Annuity Board still is a traditional indemnity plan where the participants can choose any qualified physician or hospital for treatment. The option of choosing providers in a PPO in order to save money is entirely the choice of the participant.
The Annuity Board anticipates contracting with Merck-Medco, one of America’s largest pharmacy care managers, to administer the prescription drug benefit of all Annuity Board plans. The giant provider serves more than 50 million Americans and dispenses 3 million prescriptions a week through more than 53,000 local pharmacies, and some 900,000 prescriptions a week through mail order. Day said there will be no increase Jan. 1 in the co-payment for prescription drugs.
With the change to an integrated pharmacy plan administered by Merck-Medco, Annuity Board participants will have the benefit of a central computer-based record of all their prescription drugs whether purchased at the local pharmacy or by mail. Day said this record should make it less likely that patients will be exposed to a reaction or other drug-induced problem caused by different physicians prescribing drugs that can cause a negative interaction.
All Annuity Board participants will receive information and identification cards to secure benefits with the new providers, including information on transfer of their mail order prescriptions.
Day noted both PHCS and Merck-Medco have Internet sites. Participants with Internet access can visit the sites to determine available providers and other information. They are www.phcs.com and www.merck-medco.com.