Navigating rising costs in health care

by Timothy E. Head, posted Tuesday, May 10, 2016 (3 years ago)

DALLAS (BP) -- Health care costs continue to rise due to impact from the federal Affordable Care Act and are causing insurers to seek large rate hikes, while others have chosen to depart the health care exchanges altogether, according to GuideStone Financial Resources.

The financial services arm of the Southern Baptist Convention noted some ways to help "mitigate the impact" of rising costs.

UnitedHealth, the nation's largest medical insurance provider, recently announced it lost $650 million in 2015, on top of a $425 million loss in 2014, as a result of offering medical insurance on the various exchanges established through the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealth has announced it would pull out of all but a few exchanges for 2017.

While private insurance rates may vary from the rates charged on health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, they are related. According to the Associated Press, customers in the health care exchanges could see medical insurance rate increases that reach "well into double digits," as evidenced by Virginia health care providers on the HealthCare.gov website filing preliminary notices seeking average premium increases ranging from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent.

As churches plan their 2017 budgets, they should consider that most of the industry is reporting significant increases in core health care/medical insurance and pharmacy costs through the first quarter of 2016.

"GuideStone's relationship with the national Blue Cross Blue Shield and Express Scripts networks provides deep discounting of medical and prescription costs," GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. "This helps mitigate the impact of rising medical and pharmacy costs. Through GuideStone, our participants have access to the broadest medical and pharmacy networks in America, with no narrow networks or exclusions, enabling our participants to maintain their personal physician-patient relationships."

Additionally, GuideStone remains committed to offering the Teladoc service that can help participants and employers save time and money for non-life-threatening medical needs. GuideStone noted that due to state law, the Teladoc service is not available in Arkansas. The service allows registered users to talk via phone or computer video connection to a live, U.S.-based, board-certified physician who can resolve many medical issues.

"As we design our medical coverage for 2017, and beyond, we are committed to continue to provide high-quality health care coverage at competitive prices for our participants, as well as for the employers we serve," Hawkins said. "Through services like Teladoc, and by using technological tools to provide our participants the opportunity to make healthier lifestyle choices, we are working to slow the impact of core medical inflation for the benefits of our participants and their employers."

GuideStone will inform the churches, ministries and participants it serves about medical insurance rates for 2017 in mid- to late September.

Timothy E. Head is executive officer of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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