2023 Annual Review

A message from Board leadership

2023 was a full year for the Board of Pensions. The agency set in motion generational change to serve the Church in the years ahead. We addressed the fact that the 40-year-old Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Medicare Supplement Plan were serving fewer, not more. And we reached the conclusion of a multiyear upgrade of our technology infrastructure, to improve online benefits management.

As we looked at the Benefits Plan, we saw that flexibility and choice were needed if more congregations were to support their pastors through the Church’s plan. Our vision is for all who are called to serve to be able to devote their best gifts and energies to the work of God’s kingdom. Ministries flourish when pastoral leaders receive support for holistic well-being, provided through the Benefits Plan, and congregations flourish when ministries flourish. We entered a season of rebuilding and the next generation of plan design. By year-end, our draft of a benefits plan for the 21st century was nearly done.

The agency also successfully implemented the Humana Group Medicare Advantage PPO plan as a replacement for the costly Medicare Supplement Plan, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2024. The new plan provides much the same coverage and benefits retirees are accustomed to, plus wellness, clinical, and fitness programs. The new plan carries a $0 premium, for yearly pensioner savings totaling $40 million.

We are deeply grateful to our staff for all that was accomplished during 2023. They live our values every day, demonstrating hospitality, excellence, and grace to each other and those we serve, all while keeping our diversity, equity, and inclusion journey moving steadily forward.

The Reverend Margaret O. Fox

The Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer

A new Benefits Plan for the changing Church

The Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was designed 40 years ago for a different type of pastoral leadership and a different family structure. Today, more than half of the ministers whose congregations pay for them to have family medical coverage don’t use that coverage. Yet, congregations still must pay for it. Meanwhile, 1,269 of the 4,218 new ministers the Church has ordained since 2007 have never even been enrolled in the Benefits Plan — and more than 60% of them are women. These ministers are also being left out of the Board’s assistance and education programs, which support wholeness and nurture ministries. The models of pastoral leadership at work in our denomination today vary greatly. Local churches need flexibility and choice to structure benefits packages for all these different contexts of ministry. In 2023, we responded to that need, entering a season of rebuilding, focused on the next generation of plan design: the 2025 Benefits Plan.

A transition to new retiree medical coverage

The Medicare Supplement Plan was serving less than a third of our retirees and operating at a loss. Rates for the plan increased 24% in 2023, from $275 a month to $340, and were forecast to top $400 per person in 2024 — or $800 a couple. We acted quickly, considering proposals from four of the top Medicare Advantage providers. Our requirement: That any plan be equal to or better than Medicare Supplement and structured as a passive PPO. We selected the Humana Group Medicare Advantage PPO plan, effective Jan. 1, 2024. Retirees would receive the coverage they were accustomed to and more — all for a $0 monthly subscription rate. Annual savings to pensioners would total $40 million. We took special care to communicate the end of the legacy plan to our Medicare-eligible members. In addition to letters and emails, we offered a webinar on the topic that drew over 1,000 viewers. And we held three webinars with Humana that drew nearly 2,300 participants. Information about coverage through the Humana Group Medicare Advantage PPO plan is on pensions.org.

A historic technology transformation

The launch of the new Benefits Connect website at year-end 2023 capped the strategic technology project. This concluded the most complex technological undertaking in Board of Pensions history. The enormously complex project moved us from system maintenance to innovation and enhancement. The new website provides employers and members with a more intuitive experience, greatly improving access to benefits information and benefits management. Pensions.org provides information about managing employee benefits on Benefits Connect and for employees managing benefits on Benefits Connect.

Progress on our DEI journey

Our diversity, equity, and inclusion journey moved forward, both within our walls and out across the Church. We strengthened, and established, ties to PC(USA) communities of color as we deepened outreach at all levels of the denomination. We held a Korean-language CREDO gathering and conducted four events in Puerto Rico, three for presbyteries and one for a commission on ministry. Ongoing engagement with the Korean Presbyterian Church Abroad (KPCA) resulted in 2024 Employer Agreements with 24 congregations and two affiliated seminaries. Inside the agency, employees leaned into our DEI commitment, taking part in educational sessions and lunch-hour conversations, even initiating an internal campaign to foster belonging — DEI Begins with “Hi.”

Assistance and education support

Expansion of the agency’s Assistance Program continued in 2023. We launched a new well-being grant for ministers and added educational debt relief for employees of PC(USA)-affiliated retirement communities. And eligibility for existing assistance grants widened. We also offered EdAssist through PeopleJoy to help ministers gain relief from educational debt. As a result, to date, ministers have been relieved of debt through Public Service Loan Forgiveness that totals more than $3 million. We also expanded our education offerings, with a particular focus on addressing concerns related to retirement transitions. This included offering a two-part webinar series on taxes for clergy members who had recently retired or were planning to retire soon. The series is available to view on Benefits Connect.