New state insurance law impacts some churches
January 5 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

New state insurance law impacts some churches | Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

New state insurance law impacts some churches

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor RALEIGH - The good news for church staff members who have health care insurance through the Southeastern Ministers' Association (SMA) is that they can keep their coverage despite changes in North Carolina state law. The bad news for most clients, though, is they will likely pay more. In order to keep the insurance, clients need to complete renewal paperwork by "late January" in order to meet a March 1 deadline, according to Gene Pleasants, SMA's president.

Pleasants recently advised North Carolina policy holders that, because of issues associated with the reforms, the association could no longer represent them as a single group. SMA's clients in Virginia are unaffected.

The new law, called "small group reform," has impacted churches that do not meet its requirements. For example, churches that provide insurance for the pastor but don't offer coverage to other employees who are not covered under a spouse's policy may not meet the requirement. SMA's insurance carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, is no longer required to offer coverage to the churches.

Fearing a loss of coverage, SMA considered different options and then decided to seek a solution with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The insurance company agreed to offer a plan comparable to what was previously offered.

SMA staff members are now scrambling to contact group members, answer questions and assist clients in ensuring that their comprehensive medical coverage does not lapse.

Member churches that conform to the small group reform law can choose between a variety of plans offered by Blue Cross.

The law has changed SMA's role from that of administrator of a group to an insurance broker, Pleasants said.

SMA will continue to offer dental insurance on a group basis.

More than 1,100 churches are members of the group that was formed 25 years ago. About 75 percent of those are affiliated with the Baptist State Convention, making SMA the largest health insurance provider for N.C. Baptist churches.

Small group reform was designed to make health care more accessible to all employees, to reduce qualifying restrictions, and to make health insurance portable during a transition period.

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1/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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