It is safe to say that navigating the shark-infested waters of healthcare has been difficult in recent years, especially since the current administration “fixed” our system with their “Affordable Care Act.” Our church has had some tough times financially over the last 5 or 6 years. We stretched ourselves to the breaking point just before the economy broke! In recent years we have cut every bit of fat out of our budget, and a little bit of lean. If it were not for the astronomically escalating healthcare costs over the last 5 years, our budget would be significantly reduced. Every penny of budget increase is due to rising healthcare costs. To the credit of our Administrative Team, our leaders have done all they can to continue to bear the full costs of healthcare for the three pastors.
We have had monthly meetings of confusion and frustration trying to figure out Obamacare and its ramifications. This is not a group of rubes. Our team leader is a lawyer who specializes in personnel issues. One other member was a lady who with her husband runs a tax accounting firm. She attended several conferences trying to figure out exactly how to handle the every-changing dictates of Obamacare’s fluid rules. We had a medical doctor, a pharmacist, an accountant turned farmer, and an optometrist with several employees. And the conclusion of our meetings month after month was, “we have no idea what they want!” Every month the rules changed.
And there was some frustration with Guidestone because we wanted to get all three of our pastors on a common plan. Two of us are on Guidestone and one was on another plan (the reasons for that are long, complicated and not germane to the discussion). But we were not able to put him on Guidestone because they had closed enrollment. I begged, pleaded, and tried to affect a tear or two. I fell short of threatening to write a nasty post – I don’t think the nice people (relentlessly cheerful and polite) who work the phones at Guidestone have ever heard of SBC Voices. I’m not sure whether OS Hawkins has! But their rules were firm. I understood. Their reasoning made sense.
We don’t know what Obamacare is going to demand next and so writing new policies is simply too risky until the picture clears up.
Hard to get too upset with them about this, as much as it frustrated us.
A Current Insurance Crisis
But recently, we got word that things had changed and that change affected us. It may affect you. If it affects you, this is not something to ignore. Our third pastor had private insurance that was not group coverage. Previously, the church could pay for that coverage. It can no longer do that. Previously, if the pastor paid for that himself, he could then deduct the costs of that insurance on taxes. That is gone. Basically, as I understand it, you pretty much have to be on a group plan under the new system if a) the church is going to pay for it or b) you are going to get any tax break on it.
I’m not an expert on these issues. This is just my understanding.
That’s where Guidestone comes in.
Years ago, in my previous church, we had some conflict over financial policies. We studied Hammar (recognized expert) and consulted a local man (a friend who traveled the country working with non-profits on tax and accounting policy matters). After all of that, what we found out was that the information in Guidestone’s annual publications (I think they were still the Annuity Board at the time) was the most reliable and current. Their information on how to structure pastors’ compensation is THE BEST. Their tax guide is unsurpassed. (It’s free, too.) Guidestone has the best, up-to-date, reliable information on tax, insurance and other such issues that you can find anywhere!
Now, they have stepped in again – like superheroes at the last moment, just as the timer on the bomb ticked to zero. On July 1, the new policies go into place. If you still have a personal policy (not a group policy) you are going to lose tax benefits. Your church CANNOT pay a personal policy for you. If they continue to pay a personal policy for you, there is the potential of a large penalty being imposed.
If the information I am giving is in any way incorrect, please correct me. But from what I’ve been told from several sources, this is the case.
The Facts (As of July 1-as I understand it)
- Your church cannot pay for a personal health insurance plan for you. ( If you are in need of some emergency health coverage, apply here and make sure you qualify.
- You cannot deduct the costs of a personal plan any longer.
- You need to be on a group plan!
- If your church continues to pay for your personal health insurance plan after July 1, it risks draconic, crippling fines. (Will they actually impose these? I would not tempt this administration!)
Many of you are in single staff churches with only one pastor, one employee. I don’t know what the solution is for you. I do not know if Guidestone has opened enrollment for it’s plans generally. Call them. All of Guidestone’s plans are group plans, so if you have Guidestone insurance, you are okay.
But Guidestone has made a significant change that has greatly helped my church and may be a godsend to other churches like mine. They have now allowed churches to set up group plans with as few as 2 employees. There are several requirements.
- All eligible employees (working over 20 hours – leaves most of us bloggers out) must be covered with group healthcare.
- The church has to pay it 100%.
- Minimum of 2 employees.
If you currently are on a personal (not group) health insurance plan, do not delay, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Call Guidestone. Find out the facts. Get the full story. Whether they have a solution for you or not, you will know that the information they give you will be solid, accurate and sound.
And for churches like mine, Guidestone has provided a solution that has bailed us out of a very difficult situation. Thank you, Guidestone.