SBC agencies respond to Supreme Court decision

DALLAS—GuideStone Financial Resources, which administers health insurance and retirement for Southern Baptist ministers, and the denomination’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s June 28 announcement upholding the federal Affordable Care Act.

GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins said has been on record expressing its concern that the healthcare reform law neither acknowledges, nor addresses, the unique needs of church health plans.

“The decision has no immediate impact on rates, benefits or eligibility for any of our health plan participants,” a GuideStone news release said.

“GuideStone’s health plans already included many of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that benefitted participants, such as no life time annual limits, comprehensive coverage for preventive care services, and the ability to cover children as dependents until age 26. Additionally, GuideStone has never canceled a participant’s health coverage for excessive claims,” Hawkins said. “We remain committed to providing the coverage uniquely designed to meet the needs of ministers, regardless of legal or regulatory developments. We will maintain our advocacy on behalf of the ministers we are privileged to serve.”

While GuideStone teams have been diligently working to address the unique needs of ministers with respect to the law’s requirements, it remains unclear how some of the mandate affects church plans. One area where it remains unclear how church plans are addressed is in regards to the contraceptive mandate exemption, Hawkins said.

“As I told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans last week, we will never allow this Administration, or any other, to tell us that we have to provide abortive drugs like morning-after pills or provide for same-sex marriages,” Hawkins said. “We will maintain our advocacy on behalf of the ministers we are privileged to serve.”

The ERLC’s president, Richard D. Land, said in a statement: “It is astonishing that the majority of the justices did not see the bill for what it really is: a blatant violation of the personal freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and perhaps a mortal blow to the concept of federalism,” said Richard Land, president of the ERLC.

Land noted, because of this bill, every individual not already covered through an employer would be required to purchase health care coverage or pay a fine. “When a government begins forcing citizens to purchase what it thinks is important or necessary, that government takes a dangerous step away from the freedom-embracing, democratic model,” Land said.

Another immediate implication of the decision is that the foundation of the “contraceptive mandate” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services remains intact, Land continued. This mandate requires health insurers to provide free access to contraceptives and abortion-inducing products. Because this mandate includes only an extremely narrow exemption for churches that meet specific criteria, thousands of faith-based organizations will be forced to enable their employees to obtain access to these services, services that many of them find morally reprehensible, Land said.

“Greater government involvement in medical care also means that the sick, elderly and terminally ill will suffer,” Land said, suggesting many patients in need will have to wait longer to receive treatment as the government decides how to “best” allocate resources.

Admitting healthcare reform is needed, Land said the Obama healthcare law is not the solution. “With its far-reaching effects, Obamacare will destroy much of what Americans hold dear,” Land said.

“The ERLC will continue to fight for policy that promotes affordable, high quality, and universal health care that is consistent with our biblical convictions and the United States Constitution,” he concluded.

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