Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sadly, one SBC statistic that is not declining: GuideStone health insurance premiums

Cooperative Program revenues are down. Every church I know is behind budget. Some state conventions have steeply declining revenues. Our two mission boards are millions behind in revenues. Rather depressing.

How about an SBC statistic that is not declining?

Here’s one: GuideStone raises comprehensive medical insurance coverage 25% over last year. My premiums have increased about 60% in the past two years. Rather depressing. The packet containing my 2011 medical re-enrollment has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks. I just now got the nerve to open it.

For about $15,000 per year, my wife and I get comprehensive health insurance which means that above the premiums we get to limit our annual out-of-pocket health costs to $11,600. To be clear, that is about $27,000 for the year in the event of major health care expenses. Such a deal.

Yeah, yeah. I know the problems, the reasons.

Yeah, I know that by-passes and knee replacements, etc. cost big bucks.

No, I didn’t expect Obama to fix anything.

Sure, I’m grateful to my church for paying my insurance, although most of us have understood for years and years that steeply increasing insurance premiums have eaten up any salary increases.

No, I don’t know of a decent alternative outside of getting a job where group insurance is available.

The telemarketers are already calling the church to try and get us to drop GuideStone and buy theirs. Give them credit for knowing when SBC pastors might be in a mood to switch.

Stinks, really.


Anonymous said...

Is there actually a problem with switching? I worked for an SBC college that still had GuideStone for retirement, but had Blue Cross for medical...

Lee said...

Two years ago, the Christian school where my wife worked, connected to a Southern Baptist church, dropped their guidestone plan in favor of Blue Cross. Her insurance premiums were 90% covered by her employer, but I had to pay mine, $880 a month, out of my salary. The switch to Blue Cross dropped my monthly payment to $585 and I got more coverage, lower co-pays, a limited $500 deductible and no out of pocket. Might be worth to check outside Guidestone.

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked my Guidestone medical insurance, I was covered by Bluecross/Blueshield.


Anonymous said...

I'm a retired pastor but not old enough for Medicare so I have no insurance at all since I can't afford it. I just have to pray I don't get sick and if I do, I'm gonna go sit in the waiting room at the local hospital until they take care of me. Such is the life of a retired Baptist preacher these days.

Anonymous said...

I still remember leaving the business world (working in a family business where great benefits were provided) and going to seminary. My dad asked about our insurance plans and I showed him what Guidestone was offering. He asked if that was the best they had for their ministers. My dad is from another denomination and it was actually a very poor testimony of how bad and expensive our coverage is.

Anonymous said...

We all understand that no pastor and no church is required to use GuideStone so there is no option for we autonomous brethren to have group insurance where the pool of young/old, healthy/sick insured evens out the premiums.

I may not phrase this precisely, Tim, but I think that BC/BS is just the servicer and that GS essentially is a self-insurer. Some expert can correct me on this.

I don't have a solution but insist on my right to gripe about the whole thing.

I don't see how a pastor can retire before medicare age unless he is well fixed financially. The risk is too great not to have insurance (unless you have no assets in which case the rest of us are paying the bills through taxes and insurance premiums). Sorry to sound calloused about this and I understand that some are forced into retirement.


Anonymous said...

I'm 50, in decent health with the exception of a seizure earlier this year. We don't have insurance. We can't afford it. some days I wish I had spent 20 years in the military. I didn't so it is just a wish.

I'm working with the medical institutions to pay off the bill. it will take time but it is what it is.


David Montoya said...


I wonder how much "middle man" cost is included in the Guidestone brokered insurance?

This is one of those areas that a Minster's professional guild would could be helpful.

There was a time in which only ordained ministers were insurance by the old Annuity Board. I remember being told we were self-insured then (ministers also received a huge discount from Baptist ran hospitals).

I cannot help but think if people like Ken Hall at Buckner can get paid $400k out of an endowment that it would be possible for us to create an insurance endowment rather than continuing the greed that has become so prevalent today in our current institutions.

Anonymous said...

I think the SBC should provide health insurance at no cost for all retired Southern Baptist pastors. It probably wouldn't even add up to all the salaries of denominational employees.

Anonymous said...

I'm a former pastor, now in the financial field. There is no legal reason that Guidestone cannot get church staff members on a true group plan (although there are the obvious profit reasons.) If you are in good health you can get better health insurance through BCBS online.

William Thornton said...

David, I don't think the numbers are there for you. Take all the salaries and administrative fees our of GuideStone and I doubt it would impact premiums significantly.

Some expert enlighten me: GuideStone cannot require any church to buy insurance (only Obama can do that :) ). A church with a large enough staff can secure a group plan, as can the schools, state conventions etc. I don't see how autonomous churches can be corraled into a position where a group plan will be possible. Most SBC churches are single staff. Not much of a group.

I think the SBC should give all retired pastors a million dollars...sorry for the sarcasm. The SBC has nothing to "give." They only have the money we send them. If they "gave" out health insurance to retired pastors it would be with my money. No thanks, though I share your pain.

David Montoya said...


I am not talking about just money in Guidestone, but the collective obscene salaries that are being given to "God's servants".

No, we could not create a self-insured system immediately, but if an endowment for this were created now and supported through giving and wills, the next generation of pastors could be cared for. Our generation (I believe I am close to the same age as you) has had our chance and we see the mess we have allowed. We hope Jesus will come back soon, but we should also prepare to help the church in the long haul.

Also, a professional guild would create a group which could by insurance. The management of the guild would not need a bureaucracy. Most of what the state conventions do now could be done by one person with a laptop and a cell phone!

Anonymous said...

Guidestone is self funded and uses bcbs as the administrator. Bcbs typically charges about 45 per employee per month for the administration of the plan, everything else is pretty much the actual cost of claims. The SBC population is older, fatter etc than the average larger employer which causes claims to be higher. They run an ERISA plan which is required to report all costsassociated with the plan that anyone can get, the department of labor takes a very dim view of high commissions etc so I doubt anything nefarious is going on.

My advice is to buy the highest deductible plan and have your church set up a medical expense reimbursement account that will fund the difference in costs and can save significant $$

Anonymous said...

Previous comment from Jim Champion

William Thornton said...

Thanks Jim. I had planned to crunch the numbers for a higher deductible plan and see how it comes out.

Old, fat, unhealthy, and may I add, a depressed pool of insured...