When I became President of the Board of Pensions, I pledged to make this agency “a creative and engaged conversation partner.” It’s been about 15 months, and I remain committed to that pledge.

We’ve talked to thousands of you in the last year, in small and large groups. And I’ve had conversations, one-on-one, with a lot of you. Our main goal has been to hear about your experiences with the church Benefits Plan. How is it working in each context of ministry? But I’m not surprised that other concerns about the Church have cropped up. Shifts in congregational hiring patterns and church demographics, among other factors, have affected more than the Benefits Plan.

Leaders at all levels of the Church, really all Presbyterians, need to be asking what we want to be. How do we shape the Church to fit the realities of today? What are our mission priorities? And how do we best organize ourselves so that those priorities can be addressed?

Here at the Board, we’ve been caught up in redesigning the Benefits Plan to make it work for the changing church. At the same time, we recognize that as one of the six agencies, we share responsibility for the welfare of our Church. Collaboration among all six agencies continues to expand. In the last year, our relationship with the Presbyterian Foundation has continued to grow, and we now meet regularly with the other five agencies around how we communicate with the Church at large.

Internally, we’re looking at how we leverage other relationships we have across the Church. How do we ensure we have a collective focus when engaging with congregations, mid councils, and our sister agencies? Pulling our resources together is some of the work we have in front of us. Changing with the Church includes rethinking how we, as an agency, work with our many constituencies.

At my ordination last spring, I promised to further the unity of the Church and to seek to serve “with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.” Through God’s sustaining grace, I work daily to fulfill that promise, as an agency leader, a teaching elder, and a Presbyterian.

Grace and peace,

The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer

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.

Annual Enrollment Is October 1 through November 13

Annual enrollment, now through November 13, is your chance to review and change your benefits coverage. Read Annual Enrollment: Now through November 13 on pensions.org or visit pensions.org/annualenrollment for details.

Branding Change Reflects Pharmacy Benefits Manager Merger

As a result of the merger of Catamaran, the Medical Plan’s pharmacy benefits manager, with OptumRx, UnitedHealth Group’s pharmacy care services business, Medical Plan members will see new joint branding from Catamaran and OptumRx on materials they receive, as well as enhancements to the website and mobile app. The joint branding will continue through the end of the year; only the OptumRx logo will be on materials beginning January 1, 2016.

The Board has been working closely with OptumRx (formerly Catamaran) throughout the transition, and will continue to do so to ensure a smooth transition and maintain quality service.

Prescription drug coverage is administered by OptumRx for active members (excluding Anthem, Cigna Global Health Benefits, and Triple-S enrollees) and retired members with Medicare Supplement coverage through the Board.

Medicare-Eligible? Time To Think about Your Coverage

If you are Medicare-eligible, each year during the Medicare annual enrollment period, October 15 through December 7, you have a chance to review your Medicare supplement coverage and enroll in or change plans. In the coming weeks, you’ll receive information from Medicare, CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), private insurance companies, and other organizations encouraging you to consider their health plan offerings. You’ll also receive a mailing from the Board with information about the Medicare Supplement Plan and enrollment rates for 2016. As you read through this information, keep these important tips in mind:

Make sure your coverage fits your needs.

Have you changed the medications you take? Been diagnosed with a new medical condition? Your current Medicare supplement plan may no longer cover the services and prescriptions you need. Has the cost of your plan gone up or down? Were your prescriptions dropped from the list of drugs (the formulary) included in your plan? Have you moved? Some Medicare supplement plans change benefits or stop offering coverage in particular locations. Check your current Medicare supplement plan and, if necessary, switch to another one that better meets your needs.

Understand all your options.

If you currently participate in the Medicare Supplement Plan, offered through the Board, to stay enrolled, simply continue to pay the monthly subscription; no action is required. If you are eligible but not participating, you may wish to review the Medicare Supplement Plan during this annual enrollment and consider if it meets your coverage needs. For information about this plan and what to consider when making decisions about retiree healthcare coverage, go to pensions.org under Available Resources > Booklets and Publications, and view these publications:

Ask questions.

For information about

  • healthcare coverage in retirement, contact your personal financial adviser;
  • the Medicare plans in your area, visit Medicare’s website, medicare.gov, or call 800-633-4227 (800-Medicare);
  • the Medicare Supplement Plan, contact the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN).

Remember, any changes you make to your Medicare selections will go into effect on January 1, 2016.

Six Ways To Rev Up Retirement Readiness

Fidelity Investments reports that more than half of Americans have fallen behind in preparing for retirement. Their data varies by age and income level; however, 55 percent of pre-retirees are only in “fair” or “poor” shape to cover essential expenses during their retirement years. Learn more about retirement readiness and Fidelity’s recommended six steps to get on track. Read more …

For information about the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), call Fidelity at 800-343-0860 to speak with a representative (mention plan #57887). Or, contact the Board of Pensions at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN) and talk with a member service representative.

The Gift of Love

When two hurricanes in three weeks peeled back the roof of Palmdale Presbyterian Church like the top of a sardine can, the problems were just beginning for the congregation and its pastor, the Reverend Bill Anderson.

Not only did substitute space have to be found, but the church building — without power in the summer heat and humidity — was quickly overtaken by mold. When the insurer refused to pay for repairs, choking the church’s cash flow, Bill was overwhelmed.

“Seminary doesn’t tend to prepare you for this,” he said. To his great relief, the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions awarded Bill a grant to attend a program for pastors facing crises. It made all the difference, he said, enabling him to better lead his congregation through what would be a 25-month displacement until the church was rebuilt.

Watch as Bill shares his story in The Greatest Gift: Love at pensions.org/reverendbill.

New Opportunities To Answer the Call to Health!

With the second year of Call to Health just ended (September 30, 2015), a new year of Call to Health has begun. The Board of Pensions is pleased to announce, for active members with Highmark or Anthem coverage, a new Call to Health website, launching January 5, with information, resources, and new opportunities for health and well-being.*

The time period for completing Call to Health for lower 2017 deductibles is October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016, so keep your doctor and dentist appointments this fall. For information on the transition to the new website, read the article on pensions.org.

* Those enrolled in the Medicare Supplement Plan are not eligible for Call to Health and should consult their plan’s preventive care provisions.

Eight Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Are you at risk for breast cancer? October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — a reminder to check out any troubling symptoms in your breasts, whether you are male or female.

See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms in your breasts:

  1. a painless lump or mass (hard with irregular edges or tender, soft, and rounded)
  2. swelling (in part or all, with or without a lump)
  3. a change in size or shape
  4. skin irritation or inflammation (redness or thickening)
  5. a change in skin texture, such a dimpling, indentation, or flaky skin
  6. discharge
  7. pain or tenderness
  8. enlarged lymph nodes (swelling) in the armpit

The best way to fight breast cancer is through early detection, whether by self-examinations, regular mammograms, or both. Breast cancer is usually curable when treated in the earliest stages.

Although the eight symptoms usually are a warning sign, breast cancer can occur with no symptoms. That’s why you should have annual preventive care visits and scheduled tests, at no cost to you.* Doing so is also one way you can answer the Call to Health!

* Anthem, Triple-S, Cigna Global Health Benefits, and Medicare Supplement Plan enrollees also have preventive care benefits, but coverage details differ; consult your plan’s provisions for details.

The Reverend Bill Thompson emphasizes the importance of attending the Board’s seminars and early planning for retirement in About Your Benefit: Seminars.


Find upcoming seminars and locations

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

Mark your calendars: October 1 through November 13 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.

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