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GuideStone medical rates decrease for majority of participants

DALLAS (BP)–Rates for the majority of GuideStone Financial Resources’ PPO medical plan participants will decrease for 2006, with improved benefits to be provided for preventive care and other services.

The rates and improved benefits were approved by the trustees of the Southern Baptist entity during their Aug. 1-2 meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“Fifty-seven percent of our Personal Plans participants will actually see a decrease in their medical plan rates,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins, “and this is on top of the 40 percent that received rate decreases last year. But what is really gratifying is that while we’re holding down rates, we’re making our wellness and other benefits even better.”

For 2005, GuideStone changed to the Blue Cross Blue Shield network as its single preferred provider network. This allowed GuideStone and its participants to take advantage of the nation’s largest provider network and their lower negotiated provider rates.

“The transition to Blue Cross Blue Shield as our only provider network is making a significant impact on our costs,” said Doug Day, GuideStone’s executive officer of benefit services. “The change has allowed our participants to take advantage of provider fees that are discounted up to 40 percent or more — saving money for themselves and for our medical plans.”

During a time when medical inflation is averaging 12 to 14 percent according to industry surveys, for the second year in a row there will be no medical inflation-based rate increase for participants in GuideStone’s Personal Plans. Some individuals will see a slight increase of 2 to 6 percent in their monthly rates as they move into a new age range.

Of the Group Plans, involving employers with 10 to 24 covered employees, 96 percent will receive a decrease in rates. For those employers with more than 24 covered employees, 66 percent will receive a rate decrease while 16 percent will see their rates remain flat. Seventeen percent of these large group employers will receive a rate increase due to their own past claims experience.

Wellness and preventive care benefits for GuideStone’s PPO medical plans will be enhanced for 2006 to include more eligible services. The $250 annual benefit limit for preventive care services will also be removed, and eligible preventive care services will be covered at 100 percent after the office visit co-pay.

“Over the past several years, we’ve encouraged our participants to live healthier lifestyles,” Hawkins said. “While we still have a long way to go, we’re beginning to see results as many Southern Baptist employees have taken up the challenge and have begun to make positive changes in their eating and exercise habits. By improving the wellness benefits of our PPO plans, we’re reaffirming our commitment to the health of our participants.”

Other benefit improvements for 2006 include specialist physician co-pays for all plans, easier to understand prescription drug benefits and expanded eligibility for dependents up to age 25 who are not fulltime students. A new high deductible health plan with an accompanying Health Savings Account (HSA) option also will be available.

In order to incorporate the benefits of the new Medicare prescription drug legislation, GuideStone’s Medicare supplement plans will change for 2006. By taking advantage of the new Medicare prescription drug subsidy, GuideStone will be able to reduce rates for all Medicare supplement plan participants while improving their benefits.

“We’re working on improving all of our medical plans using a three-prong attack,” Hawkins said. “First, GuideStone takes the responsibility to offer affordable, quality medical plans. Secondly, our participants take the responsibility to live a healthy lifestyle and make informed healthcare choices. And finally, churches and conventions take the responsibility to meet the needs of their ministers and staff members by providing a comprehensive benefit package including life, disability, medical and dental as well as retirement.”
Curtis D. Sharp is executive officer, denominational and public relations services, for GuideStone Financial Resources.

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