For the first time in five years, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Board of Pensions’ (BOP) Medical Plan dues are going up. At it’s June 23-25 meeting here, the board voted to raise Medical Plan dues by three-quarters of a percentage point in each of the next two years. Thus, dues will rise from 19.5 percent to 20.25 percent in 2012 and to 21 percent in 2013. Michael Fallon, the BOP’s vice-president for finance, told the board June 25 that Medical Plan reserves at the end of 2011 are projected to be above the 20-33 percent [of current year claims and expenses] range that is the BOP’s guideline for such reserves. “But without changes,” he said, the reserve level will drop below the 20 percent bottom of the range by 2012 and below zero by the end of 2013.” The two-step dues increase “…spreads the pain,” said BOP director Alan Ford. BOP director Paul Volker, a physician, agreed. “I appreciate the two-year phase-in,” he said. “It  helps churches with their planning.” The Rev. Brian Ellison, a board member who also serves on its Healthcare Committee said, “I want to counter any misperception that any healthcare increases are related to domestic partner benefits. We must go out of our way to reinforce the message that this has nothing to do with domestic partner benefits but reflects healthcare costs and healthcare costs only.” It also helps the board avoid possible confusion by not announcing a 1 percent dues increase at a time when it is considering a request from the 219th General Assembly to explore extending benefits to same-gender domestic partners. The Assembly authorized the board to raise Pension Plan dues by 1 percent if necessary to fund such an expansion. The dues increase was part of a package of changes to the Medical Plan the board approved as it prepares for the full rollout of federal health care reform in 2014. Vice-President for Benefits Patricia Haines said she’s confident that as many as two-thirds of Medical Plan members will likely qualify for some kind of government subsidy under the state-based health insurance exchange system created by the reform legislation, “so wholesale changes to our plan don’t make sense right now.” In the meantime, the package of Medical Plan changes include (in addition to the dues increase):