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GuideStone assistance in place for Katrina-impacted participants

DALLAS (BP)–Immediate assistance to GuideStone Financial Resources participants and eligible churches in areas destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina has been put in place by the Southern Baptist Convention entity’s staff.

“Our hearts and minds are focused these days on all our Southern Baptist churches, associations, our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary family and, in fact, our entire Southern Baptist family in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “We have developed some tangible solutions how we can be Christ’s hand extended to our participants during these difficult days.”

Disaster victims eligible for assistance need to reside in an “Individual Assistance” area as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and have confirmation of need from their respective state Baptist convention. FEMA has designated 31 Louisiana parishes, 47 Mississippi counties and seven Alabama counties as Individual Assistance areas.

Continuation of the retirement plan protection benefits (up to $100,000 in survivor benefits and up to $500 per month in disability benefits) will be made available by GuideStone, and the SBC entity will waive the requirement that retirement contributions must be in continuous months. The IRS has just announced that some relief also will be available for participants who have outstanding plan loans.

GuideStone will assist eligible life and health plan participants who are unable to make their monthly payments for coverage. Up to three months of premiums may be waived for those churches that are not receiving regular offerings or are unable to provide compensation for their pastor and staff. Current life and health plan participants should contact their respective state Baptist convention to request assistance from GuideStone with their life and health premiums. The state Baptist conventions will then confirm the need to GuideStone.

Eligible churches that lose their life and health coverage with another carrier as a result of this disaster will receive an expedited application process to provide coverage for their employees. Evidence of insurability and normal underwriting will apply for most plans. However, GuideStone’s Health Limited Plan does not require underwriting and can be effective immediately. This plan provides up to $2,000 in healthcare coverage and access to significant discounts on medical and pharmacy benefits.

Participants who may need to leave a GuideStone medical plan during the 12 months following Hurricane Katrina will be able to reapply to GuideStone plans without underwriting, provided they apply no later than Sept. 1, 2007.

GuideStone has been working with its vendors to reach out to Katrina victims. Many vendors, including Highmark, Medco, Humana (Louisiana HMO) and GuideOne, have modified their requirements to assist GuideStone participants affected by Katrina. Highmark and Humana will treat out-of-network claims as in-network through Oct. 31. Medco has enabled an immediate one-time retail prescription without co-pay on behalf for all prescriptions for GuideStone participants in the affected areas. GuideOne has implemented a grace period during which customers in impacted areas of Louisiana, Mississipppi and Alabama will not be canceled for nonpayment of premium.

“Our vendors have once again provided great service and have come through for our participants in a time of disaster,” Hawkins said. “We are thankful for their help during these days.”

The GuideStone customer relations team can answer participants’ questions and explain what assistance is available. Participants should call 1-800-262-0511 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Standard Time.
Curtis D. Sharp is executive officer for denominational and public relations services with GuideStone Financial Resources, SBC.

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  • Curtis D. Sharp