November generally is a time of thanks. Everywhere we turn, it seems, we are reminded to be thankful. But it is also a time to remind ourselves of those who have so little, they give thanks for a single cup of hot coffee or a safe place to be for just a couple of hours.

Neither you nor I can change the whole, wide world, but each of us can choose to do “those little bits of good,” as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called them. We can be kind. We can acknowledge another’s humanity, listen to someone in pain, and let them know that it’s just not true that no one cares. We all want to feel connected to others.

At the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we understand the value of connection. The Board of Pensions administers the church Benefits Plan, along with our Assistance Program and Board University educational offerings. As a result, thousands of PC(USA) servants receive healthcare and death and disability benefits, retirement pensions, emergency financial assistance, and educational opportunities. Still, as a communion, we can do more. The Board is thinking about ways to make more possible.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Here at the Board, we’re seeking that kind of an opportunity. We want to help churches and other employing organizations make benefits available to more PC(USA) church workers than have them today.

It seems certain that the one-size model of the plan’s Traditional Program is going to fit fewer employers, considering the shifts in congregational hiring patterns and the changing church. The Traditional Program was designed with clergy in mind. So we’re asking: How could we enhance the benefits offerings in our traditional areas of focus to fit the profile of the Church today while keeping the covenant with our pastors?

Developing a direction for the future isn’t going to be easy; we can’t ignore the rising cost of healthcare coverage and the need to heed the risk and volatility of investment markets. The Board of Pensions can’t do this alone. That’s one reason we’ve begun opening new channels for conversations with the rest of the Church.

If our communion is to care for more of its servants, the Board is going to need engagement from every corner of the PC(USA). A diversity of voices is essential. So, come on and join us. Let’s get started on working for “the good of all.”

Grace and peace,


Frank C. Spencer
President

Welcome to Board Connections, the newsletter for The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This publication highlights recent Board news and important updates and information. We hope you find this newsletter useful, and we welcome your feedback at any time.

Joyous News: Charlotte Presbytery Acts on Frank Spencer’s Ordination

We received joyous news here at the Board of Pensions last week. The Presbytery of Charlotte (North Carolina) voted to authorize the ordination of our President, Frank Spencer, on February 7, 2015. Frank said he was “honored and humbled.”

Frank has completed work toward his Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte, and will graduate April 18, 2015. We’re excited that he has answered the call to lead us at such a pivotal time in our history. He assumed the presidency July 1, 2014, and within the 100 days that followed had conveyed a vision of optimism for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and our role as a critical agency partner. So, please join us in saying, Congratulations, Frank!

Enrollment Ends November 14

Annual benefits enrollment, now through November 14, is an important time of year for employees and employers.

Optional Benefits

Annual enrollment is the only time employees can enroll for or make changes to dental and supplemental death benefits coverage unless the employee has a qualifying life event during the year. It’s also a great time to review your Retirement Savings Plan choices and consider Long-Term Care Insurance. Visit pensions.org/annualenrollment for additional details. Employers should make certain they take any needed action to submit or approve new or updated optional benefits choices by November 14.

Traditional Program Medical Dues

November 14 is also the deadline for employers who employ Traditional Program members to take two important actions regarding medical dues: submit through Benefits Connect

  1. a dues-sharing policy; and
  2. any 2015 medical coverage-level changes for employees.

Employers and members should refer to Your Guide to Making Medical Coverage-Level Changes to make certain they are aware of the employer’s dues-sharing policy, member coverage choices, and details on submitting information to the Board.

Watch for the Fall Healthcare Mailing

Healthcare in America — or at least its administration — can be confusing. “What’s covered? Who pays for it? And what’s my deductible?” are common questions, and important for you to ask.

To address these questions and help you make the best use of your healthcare benefits, the Board sends members a booklet, Your Healthcare Benefits in Brief, along with a Preventive Care Benefits Overview, each November. Watch your mail for this key information about your healthcare benefits, and expect to receive it shortly before Thanksgiving. If you do not receive your mailing by December 1, please call the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN) to speak with a member service representative.

Call to Health Succeeds — and Continues!

The first year of Call to Health, the member health initiative that began last fall and ended September 30, saw a nearly 50 percent completion rate — and more than 55 percent of members took advantage of the Medical Plan’s preventive benefits during this 12-month period! Members who answered the call are enjoying the peace of mind that comes from monitoring, and taking steps to improve, their health. They also earned lower medical deductibles in 2015 for themselves and their eligible family members. Congratulations to all who participated!

A new year of Call to Health began October 1, 2014, and ends September 30, 2015.

Information about the second-year health actions will be mailed to members’ homes in early January. In the meantime, your regularly scheduled preventive care visit after September 30, 2014, counts toward the second-year initiative, so go ahead and keep your appointment if this is “your time” for an annual checkup.*

A healthy and vibrant church starts with each of us. Please make Call to Health a priority this year, and enjoy better health and reduce your deductibles for 2016!

*Reminder: The Call to Health section of myactivehealth.com/pcusa will be closed for member entries until early January (i.e., you cannot self-report at this time).When you go to the website between October 1 and December 31, 2014, you’ll find that information related to health actions that are updated for you, such as preventive exams, and that you completed through September 30, 2014, will continue to be automatically updated.

Heart Health in Spotlight for Diabetes Month

Know your numbers is a familiar callout in the healthcare world — and an action item in the Board’s Call to Health initiative. But with diabetes, a condition in which blood sugar reaches dangerous levels, it is a critical command.

In November, for National Diabetes Month, the National Diabetes Education Program is spotlighting the diabetes connection to heart health and stressing the importance of managing glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol and of not smoking (see pensions.org for help with that). According to the National Institutes of Health, if you have diabetes, you are at least twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as someone who does not have diabetes.

Knowing your numbers can enable you to keep your glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol readings in line with your doctor’s recommendation. In addition to eating well and exercising, numbers knowledge is a tool for managing diabetes or, in the case of prediabetes, heading off diabetes onset. Prediabetes is marked by glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Nevertheless, long-term heart damage can get its start with prediabetes.

So, know your numbers!

The EAP Can Help during Troubled Times

The upcoming holiday season is a time of community and joy, but it can also be a stressful time. During this season, and throughout the year, remember that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential resource included with your healthcare benefits at no cost to you.

The EAP can help with a variety of personal concerns, from handling everyday stress and anxiety, to dealing with disasters and other traumatic events, to achieving better work/life balance. The program offers phone and in-person support, personalized assistance, and referrals to licensed counselors and professional resources in your community, including up to six face-to-face counseling sessions per issue, immediate assistance with critical emotional needs, and a live chat feature on the website for communicating with an advocate or a credentialed counselor, as needed.

Active members enrolled in Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO or Anthem Blue Preferred HMO are eligible for the EAP, as well as covered dependents (regardless of residence) and any person living in an active member’s household. The EAP is not available to those enrolled in the Medicare Supplement Plan.

To learn more about the EAP, including how to access it and other services it provides, visit pensions.org.

10 Year-End ‘Tax’ Commandments

There are some tricky income tax and Social Security rules that apply to ministers, treasurers, and administrators at churches and other employing organizations. As we approach year-end, the following 10 suggestions, prepared by noted church and clergy tax expert Richard R. Hammar, can help you finish 2014 in good standing and get a good start on 2015.

  1. Designate 2015 cash housing and/or manse allowance by December 31.
  2. Report 2015 salary and service changes to the Board by December 31.
  3. Ask employees to review and update their Form W-4 for 2015, as needed.
  4. Ask pastoral employees: Want to start voluntary tax withholding in 2015?
  5. Reclassify pastoral employees from self-employed to employee.
  6. Reimburse year-end business expenses by the end of the year.
  7. Record/report Christmas gifts to all staff members.
  8. Advise donors not to file returns before receiving contribution summaries.
  9. Issue receipts for year-end contributions, noting the correct year.
  10. Obtain tax forms, publications from irs.gov as they become available.

For more specialized resources to help in understanding tax laws related to pastors, churches, and employing organizations, visit the Tax Resource Center.

BoardLink Upgrade Is Complete

Last month, the Board successfully completed an upgrade to BoardLink, the online system for viewing and paying Board invoices.

Users will notice that the upgrade provides several enhancements, including improved browser compatibility, allowing smoother site navigation. For tips on how to use the improved BoardLink site, view or download BoardLink Helpful Hints.

If you have questions about BoardLink, please contact the Board at invoices@pensions.org or 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN).

This Board Bulletin reports actions taken at the fall 2014 meeting of the Board of Directors, October 23-25, that affect plans and programs administered by the Board.

Highlighted E-Learning

View Asset Allocation, the fourth lesson in the recently launched Basic Investment Series. The module describes how to use two important tools — asset allocation and diversification — to make the most of your investments.

Seminars

Find upcoming seminars and locations

Great American Smokeout

If you smoke, the Board of Pensions urges you to join the Great American Smokeout and stop smoking for just 24 hours on Thursday, November 20.

The Annual Smokeout challenges smokers to start with one tobacco-free day and then “commit to quit” — pledge to take immediate steps to stop smoking or otherwise using tobacco. If you are covered through the active Medical Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and are age 18 or older, coverage for prescribed medications and a tobacco cessation program through ActiveHealth Management are available to help you kick the habit.

Employers wishing to support the Smokeout locally may visit the American Cancer Society website for helpful resources.

RSP To Add Roth Option

Look for information in December about the Roth option in the RSP and how it may create more savings flexibility for you.

Members Can Apply Online for Optional Dental and Supplemental Death Coverage!

Mark your calendars: October 1 through November 14 is the annual enrollment period for the optional Dental and Supplemental Death Benefits plans. Members who are eligible for the plans can apply online through Benefits Connect, the Board’s secure benefits website, during the annual enrollment period. To register for Benefits Connect, follow the simple steps outlined on the site.

Note to employers: When your members apply online, you will receive a letter from the Board of Pensions indicating which members applied for the programs. These letters are generated daily.

If you are not already taking advantage of Benefits Connect, register today!

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If you have comments or feedback on this newsletter, please let us know at communications@pensions.org.

If you have questions, call the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN) and speak with a member service representative.