Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How loyal should Southern Baptists be to GuideStone?

Let me be brutally candid here about health insurance and more personal than I am accustomed to be on this blog: My GuideStone comprehensive health insurance monthly bill is larger than my mortgage payment and is the most expensive routine expense I have. I suppose many other pastors join me in that. Even pastors whose churches pay their insurance understand that the insurance billing eats into their take home income indirectly as churches look at the costs of providing salary and benefits for their clergy staff.

I have heard my fellow pastors complain for decades about GuideStone being expensive, more expensive than alternative sources of insurance; nonetheless, I understand the reasons for this and have not asked churches I have served to explore alternative sources. Now that I pay my own bill directly in retirement, I have continued to buy from GuideStone.

Two factors have led to this. First, GuideStone will not terminate coverage for frequent of excessive claims, and second, I have found GS to be easy to work with.

We are finally hearing from GuideStone on ObamaCare, although if one accesses their website and roots around a bit there is and has been plenty of general information on it there. We are hearing more now because (a) the ObamaCare health care exchanges will be open in October, and (b) GuideStone is softening clients up for next year's rate increase, said to be in "single digits."

Baptist Press has the article, Obamacare's implementation eyed by GuideStone for 2014

My mortgage is a fixed rate. Premiums vary only in the amount of escrow needed for property insurance and taxes, and has gone down several years running because of reduction in taxes. Alas, health insurance is not fixed and, despite my taking less and less coverage, higher and higher deductibles, has skyrocketed. I mentioned the ballpark figure I pay for insurance at a minister's conference recently. The leader, a pastor but retired military, was aghast at the figure. He had no clue.

If an acceptable insurance alternative is available through the exchanges I will look very closely at it.

Naturally, GuideStone doesn't like the competition nor the reality that they stand to lose customers. Warnings to GS clients, in the form of advice, is offered in the article:

Pastors and churches must address four main concerns as they look to re-enrollment for 2014:
1. whether they will provide coverage for their employees or put them in a position of having to obtain coverage on secular exchanges.
2. how exchange plan benefits and total cost of coverage, including out-of-pocket expenses, exchange taxes and fees, will compare with their existing coverage.
3. whether, if they use a secular health plan provider, they will be subsidizing objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients.
4. whether their health plans meet applicable health care reform limits and rules.

While these are relevant considerations, I don't like the way GuideStone puts this. Average sized churches probably depend on, and defer to, the pastor about where he obtains his health insurance. Churches may stand to save thousands annually if the pastor buys his own health insurance from one of the exchanges.

I am quite concerned that the article, a piece written by GuideStone employees, failed to mention one very important change that ObamaCare forces on them. Next post for that. Maybe GuideStone is working on that one.

If I sound a little surly about the whole thing, I am. I am about to write next month's check to GuideStone.


Anonymous said...

There is a less expensive way to provide healthcare but the country, as a whole, is not open to it ... yet. In time a sufficient number of people will opt for a single-payer system in which a sufficient number of opportunistic politicians will come following.

However, among the last group of people with high ground for criticizing their payments for healthcare, influenced by federal law, are clergy receiving housing allowances.

Having said that, I am sympathetic to the cost of healthcare, even for those with housing allowances. There are sufficient finances in this country for healthcare, assuming the peoples come to an agreement on the value of such for all people.

Daniel said...

I recently began pastoring at a very conservative church in the Northeast that is still part of the ABCUSA. Shortly after enrolling in the health insuarance plan offered through the denomination, I learned that it will completely cease to exist in January because they will no longer be able to offer competitive rates under Obamacare. I wonder how long Guidestone will be able to hold on.

Lee said...

Why can't Guidestone exercise the options that are open to them on the "secular exchanges" in order to put their costs into a more competitive range and offer lower premiums to their policyholders?