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GuideStone: New healthcare options holding down costs

DALLAS (BP)–The majority of participants in GuideStone Personal Plans health insurance “will see no rate increase for 2005,” and many participants “will actually see a rate decrease due to changes in the rating structure,” GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (Annuity Board) announced in a Sept. 10 news release.

The health insurance industry, meanwhile, is projecting approximately a 13 percent increase in healthcare costs, said GuideStone, which launched several new medical plan options in 2004.

For many employers in GuideStone’s Group Plans, which consist of churches and organizations with more than 10 fulltime employees, rates also will remain the same or, in some cases, decrease for 2005. GuideStone noted that some employers, however, will see an inflation-driven rate increase or an increase based on their prior claims experience. Yet “the average increase remains below the predicted national medical trend for 2005,” according to the entity’s news release.

“Much of the rate increase that would normally be required due to medical inflation has been offset by the benefits of improved PPO network discounts, increased network usage and utilization of disease management programs for chronic conditions,” said Doug Day, GuideStone’s executive officer for benefit services.

“More of our participants are using network providers for their medical care and saving money,” Day said. “And that means our plans are also saving.”

In addition, GuideStone’s disease management and wellness programs are having a positive impact on the lives of many participants by “helping individuals better manage chronic illness and lead healthier lives,” Day said. “More people are walking and exercising regularly and using GuideStone’s wellness website, www.BaptistWellness.org, to log their miles and learn about healthful eating habits.”

While the benefits for GuideStone’s core PPO medical plans will remain the same for 2005, there will be some changes related to network providers and rating structures, according to the news release. Blue Cross Blue Shield has been selected as the nationwide network for all of the PPO plans.

“We are projecting that the change to the Blue Cross Blue Shield provider network will positively impact the total healthcare costs for our participants,” Day said. “With Blue Cross Blue Shield’s vast nationwide provider network and volume discount buying power, GuideStone participants can take advantage of negotiated provider fees that are discounted up to 30 percent or 40 percent
and more.”

Beginning in 2005, GuideStone’s Personal Plans will move to an industry standard — annual age rate structure — with rates to be based on the age of the participants. Currently, GuideStone uses five-year age bands. Every five years, participants receive an age-based rate increase in addition to any required medical inflation rate increase. The age-band structure sometimes increased rates as much as 20 percent over any medical inflation increase. By changing to annual age rates, a participant’s rates will be based upon the participant’s current age each year and lessen the impact of the five-year age-bands-related increases.

In this transition year, rates will actually decrease for participants who received an age-based rate increase within the last two years. Participants who have not received an age-based increase in several years could see an age-based increase this year.

Additionally, GuideStone is changing the family rating structure of its PPO plans to better reflect the anticipated claims costs for the actual family members covered under the plan. The new structure reflects industry standards and may save money for employees who choose to cover dependent children but no spouse.

“This will be a great way for families to save money when a spouse has health coverage at another employer,” Day said. “Children typically require less medical care than adults, and this new structure allows us to pass the savings on to families.”

GuideStone will launch a nationwide campaign this fall to highlight the broad array of medical plans now available for Southern Baptist employees. As a part of this campaign, current medical plan participants who “Guide-A-Friend” to apply for medical coverage with GuideStone may receive a $100 credit on a 2005 medical plan billing statement -– up to $1,200 for 12 referrals.

GuideStone offers six Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans with deductibles ranging from $0 to $3,000. A PPO offers access to doctors and medical facilities that have agreed to provide medical care at negotiated discounts to participants in the PPO medical plan. All of the plans offer benefits for doctors’ visits, hospitalization, prescription drugs, wellness benefits, preventive care and more, at varying benefit levels.

Noting that the new medical plan options introduced in 2004 have been effective in managing costs for medical plan participants, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said, “We understand that paying for health coverage is a real challenge for many people and for many churches. That’s why we’ve developed plan options that give participants more choices.

“We’re getting very positive feedback from our medical plan participants about the variety of plans available,” Hawkins continued. “Many of them are happy to be able to save money on monthly rates by taking advantage of our higher deductible plans that can save churches up to 50 percent on monthly rates. The new PPO plan designs have been so successful in holding down medical claim costs that we will continue to offer the plans for 2005 with no benefit changes to the core plans.

“We want to encourage Southern Baptists to take a new look at the health coverage options we now offer,” Hawkins said. “With our wide range of plans and costs, we have plans that will fit almost any budget. We’re confident that many employees who looked at us in the past but couldn’t afford coverage will be pleasantly surprised with their choices.”
Wendy Ashley is a project team leader in the communications department for GuideStone Financial Resources.

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  • Wendy Ashley