From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Drug Costs Prompt Board of Pensions to Raise Some Rates

Date 28 Oct 1998 20:14:25

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    Drug Costs Prompt Board of Pensions to Raise Some Rates 
    by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-With much of their attention seemingly diverted to the 
search for a new president, members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 
Board of Pensions (BOP) held one of their most routine meetings in memory 
here Oct. 22-24. 
    What few actions the board took included rate increases in two Major 
Medical-related plans, including the Medicade Supplement plan, whose costs 
are threatening to run away due to rising prescription drug expenses. 
    The board approved a six-percent increase in the subscription rate for 
the Major Medical Continuation plan.  Rates were last raised two years ago. 
The cost will rise from $259 to $275 per month for those who enrolled in 
the board's Major Medical Continuation program after 1986, and from $151 to 
$160 for those who enrolled prior to 1987.  The changes are effective Jan. 
1, 1999. 
    Healthcare Committee chair Beach Hall of Rogers City, Mich., noted that 
the increased subscription cost does not cover the entire cost of the 
continuation program.  The continuation program receives an additional two 
percent subsidy from Major Medical dues, worth about $1.7 million. 
    The board also raised the rates for the Medicare Supplement Plan, where 
fully 70 percent of the program's costs result from prescription drug 
reimbursements.  On Jan. 1, 1999, the subscription rate for that program 
will rise from $90 per participant per month to $100 per participant per 
    William E. Rauh of Yardley, Pa., who chairs the board's search 
committee, announced the time-line for the committee's search for a new 
president to succeed John J. Detterick, who was elected executive director 
of the General Assembly Council at last summer's General Assembly in 
    Rauh said the committee intends to have a candidate to present for 
election by the board at its May 21-22, 1999 special meeting and 
confirmation by next summer's General Assembly, June 19-26 in Fort Worth, 
    He said the position will be advertised in church and trade 
publications as well as the Wall Street Journal during November and 
December, with a Jan. 31 deadline for applications.  A "long list" of 
candidates will be developed in March and trimmed to a "short list" in 
April, with interviews scheduled in early May. 
    Senior vice-president Francis E. ("Frank") Maloney, gave the board a 
progress report on a couple of initiatives to "cast the net wider" to get 
more members into the church's benefits plans. 
    Responding to an overture from Donegal and several other presbyteries 
that was adopted by this year's General Assembly, Maloney said Board of 
Pensions representatives recently met with persons from Donegal Presbytery, 
seminaries, colleges and large churches to explore what it would take to 
bring them into the benefits plans. 
    Currently, only pastors serving churches are mandated to participate in 
the Major Medical and pension plans of the board.  The Donegal overture 
requires all ministers and all church-related institutions to participate. 
Though the conversations were preliminary, Maloney called them "very good 
    The issue, said interim BOP president David B. Johnson, "is to find a 
way to make the plans affordable for those who are not currently in them, 
while continuing to make them fair for all plan members." 
    Maloney said all parties to the initial conversations have agreed to 
continue the discussions.  He said he anticipates a progress report to the 
1999 General Assembly with some recommendations to the Assembly in 2000. 
    Maloney also reported on conversations between the BOP and 
representatives of the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (KPCA) about 
bringing employees of that denomination, particularly its ministers, into 
the PC(USA) benefits plans. 
    The board is awaiting demographic data from the KPCA, which is 
necessary to calculate the cost of KPCA participation in the plans. 
Maloney said it would probably take until the 2000 Assembly to negotiate 
any kind of participation deal with the KPCA in the PC(USA) benefits plan. 
    Despite volatile markets and the worst quarterly performance for the 
U.S. stock market since the third quarter of 1990, the Board of Pensions 
investment portfolio had a positive year to date return. 
    Christopher Smith, Chair of the Investment Committee, reported that the 
portfolio had a total return of 1.3 percent for the first nine months of 
1998. Mr. Smith noted that "the Board balanced portfolio performed well 
during a difficult market environment for all asset classes." The portfolio 
is invested 50 percent in U.S. stocks, 15 percent in international stocks 
and 35 percent in bonds. 
    And as previously announced Major Medical dues for 1999 will remain at 
16 percent with a .5 percent dues credit for churches and employing 

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