In an Oct. 23-26 meeting here that was short on immediate decisions but long on implications for its future, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Board of Pensions approved its 2014 business plan and continued to prepare for the full roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The board also continued to prepare for life after the retirement of its top two executives ― President and CEO Robert W. Maggs next summer and Executive Vice-president and Chief Operating Officer Frank Maloney at the end of 2014.
The business plan is built around four “key drivers,” including new leaders to succeed Maggs and Maloney, continuing evaluation of the Medical Plan in light of market changes and the ACA, collaborative efforts among the six national agencies of the PC(USA), and “corporate stewardship,” which includes adapting to the ever-changing needs of PC(USA) employers and employees, particularly the financial health of the boards Assistance Program, which covers special needs of plan members beyond the traditional benefits of the boards Healthcare and Pension plans.
Those plans, reported Chief Financial Officer Michael Fallon, remain strong. “Reserves are adequate and expenses are within the benchmarks for all plans,” he said. Specifically, Fallon noted:
- The board’s balanced investment portfolio stood at $8.1 billion and has returned 11.3 percent as of September 30, 2013.
- The Pension Plan is fully funded at 137 percent (of assets over potential liabilities).
- The Medical Plan is “strong currently and projected out over the next couple of years,” thanks in part, Fallon said, to a medical cost trend of just over 6 percent, about 3 percent less than the projected trend on which the plan entered 2013.
- The Medicare Supplement program is also strong, Fallon said, and no subscription dues increase is currently projected for 2014 and 2015.
Dues increases were approved for two programs:
- an average 6.2 percent hike for former Traditional Program members enrolled in the Medical Continuation Program. This increase does not apply to former Affiliated Benefits Program participants who are enrolled in Medical Continuation.
- An increase for optional Dental Plan coverage dues of 6.5 percent for the PPO option and 2.9 percent for the DMO option. The Dental Plan is administered by Aetna and is available to eligible active members of the Benefits Plan and their covered partners and children.
The most significant change BOP plan members will see in the near future is the Jan. 1 switch in prescription drug providers from Express Scripts to Catamaran, a change that was announced earlier this fall.
Stewart Beltz, the board’s director of health and welfare, told the board’s Healthcare Committee on Oct. 25 that “the transition is going smoothly. We’re looking forward to this ― its basically the same benefit only with a different vendor and better customer service. Beltz noted that the Catamaran website features “all pricing and formulary information” so plan members can better see what’s available and for what price.
“We’ve heard from a number of members saying they welcome this change,” said Patricia M. Haines, senior vice-president of benefits. “Our goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible for our members with minimal, if any, disruption,” noting that plan members will see little or no change in the prescription drugs on the formulary and will have access to almost all of the same retail pharmacies as they do currently.
The board, as it has in past years, voted to give Christmas gifts to retirees receiving income and housing supplements from the Assistance Program. Single individuals will receive a gift of $250 and members with covered partners, $500. The gifts will be sent to all plan members who were receiving income and/or housing supplements as of Nov. 1, 2013.
- Income and Housing Supplements help retired church workers and their surviving covered partners live modestly and independently. To qualify, their total income from all sources must fall below levels set by the board. Those target levels are currently $26,760 for single persons and $32,100 for members with covered partners.
As always, more detailed information is available at www.pensions.org.