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GuideStone health plans in sync with parts of new health care law

DALLAS (BP)–While many questions remain about the impact of the new health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama, GuideStone Financial Resources’ plans already meet several elements of the new law.

Participants in GuideStone’s health plans can already have these benefits:

— All but one of GuideStone’s health plans provide unlimited annual and lifetime benefits. A provision of the law, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), will prohibit lifetime and annual limits on benefits. This feature has been a benefit from GuideStone for more than a decade, officials of the Southern Baptist entity noted.

— While the new law prohibits health plans from cancelling a participant’s coverage for excessive claims, GuideStone has never cancelled coverage for a participant due to the participant’s claims, according to officials at the Dallas-based entity.

— GuideStone health plans will be expanded to include eligible dependents up to age 26. This change is effective immediately, and families affected by this change should contact GuideStone.

— PPACA requires that group health plans provide coverage for dependent children up to age 26 regardless of student status. In 2005, GuideStone removed student status as a requirement for eligibility in its health plans.

“GuideStone has been providing health plans for Southern Baptist churches and ministries for more than a half-century,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “During that time, we have seen many changes in how health care plans are designed and how they are administered. We anticipate that the nature and scope of this legislation will be a key area of focus for years to come.”

GuideStone, in cooperation with other denominations, is monitoring legislative issues to determine the impact of the legislation on church plans. For example, due to the nature of Southern Baptist Convention, GuideStone cannot mandate that all Southern Baptist churches insure their ministers and employees in GuideStone health plans. Because of the SBC’s governance/structure and in order to maintain a viable health plan for its participants, GuideStone uses underwriting to determine eligibility. One provision of the new law (that does not begin until 2014) prohibits health plans from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. GuideStone, like all private insurers, will be studying the future impacts of such provisions on its plans.

“We are working diligently to make known to Congress the unique nature and needs of church health plans and the past provisions that have enabled church plans to serve their participants,” Hawkins said. “We pledge to remain informed as events unfold and to keep our participants abreast of issues as we continue to be an advocate for our participants and their ministries.”
Curtis D. Sharp is executive officer of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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