The Pension Boards and its affiliates are currently composed of 15 elected Trustee board members, and one Trustee member who serves by agreement as a result of their position as General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. There are also two (non-Trustee) Directors appointed by the Chair serving on the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance. The governing body numbers are established by resolution and conform to our bylaws. The Pension Boards seeks Trustees and Directors who bring skills and experience relevant to the financial services business.
Specifically, pension and benefits business candidates who have experience with different settings of the church and who bring knowledge of those settings, are invited for consideration based upon demonstrated experience, skills, and understanding of our denomination. The Governance Committee seeks broad representation of business and investment professionals, and clergy. The Board has among its members Chief Executive Officers, investment professionals, actuaries, CPAs, and lawyers, a Ph.D. in economics, and persons with technology and marketing experience with public company experience. Clergy representatives include active and retired pastors, a president of a denominational seminary, a chaplain leading a team of clergy in a major hospital system, Conference Ministers, both active and retired, and representatives of the national church.
The Governance Committee has a focus on diversity. Presently, there are seven women and 10 men serving. The Board has representation from Black, Asian and Pacific Island, and Hispanic communities. The Board has representation across age groups, including members in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies.
The Trustee selection process is extensive. Candidates are identified and recommended by current Board members and other sources. Their backgrounds are reviewed by the Governance Committee of the Pension Boards and then recommended to the full Board for approval. Once approved, the candidate’s information is then submitted to the Governance Committee of the United Church of Christ Board (UCCB), which reviews and then submits the candidate to the UCCB for its approval. Once approved by the UCCB, the candidate’s name is added to a list of potential Pension Boards Board members. If an opening becomes available, a candidate may be asked to serve. They are then presented to the entire membership for election and must receive a favorable majority of the votes cast by members.
The Pension Boards is committed to offering healthcare benefit programs that are affordable and comprehensive. As we continue to navigate the impact of the COVID pandemic for all of our plan members—that includes active and retired clergy, lay employees, and their families—all member co-pays and co-insurance out-of-pocket costs were waived for all COVID-related inpatient and outpatient services. This also included waived co-pays for telemedicine and telehealth services that became very popular over the past year.
We continue to offer four Non-Medicare health plan options, including a Health Savings Account (HSA) that was asked for by a number of our members. All include comprehensive benefits and low premium rates and copays and out-of-pocket maximums, with nationwide portable benefits administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
We continue to have a robust pharmacy program administered by Express Scripts with low copays and a comprehensive formulary with retail and home delivery services. Our Dental Plan includes no-cost preventive services; there is a Vision Plan for routine checkups, glasses, and contacts; a life insurance program, which is partnered with a short- and long-term disability income protection plan; and finally a Member Assistance Program, which includes helpful educational materials for work-life balance and support services, as well as a wellness benefit program that emphasizes pursuit of healthy lifestyles with a financial wellness reward program.
Turning to our retired clergy and lay employees and their families: In 2020, we began to transition to a new Medicare plan. After many years of discernment, the Pension Boards made plans to move to a new Medicare Advantage Plan with a pharmacy benefit. The reasons behind the transition were several, and include lower-cost upfront premiums and maintaining competitiveness with other plans in the marketplace to provide fitness center programs, wellness programs, and also coverage when retirees travel internationally.
We wanted to attract younger retirees to the plan, as the average age in the plan is 78 years of age. We also sought to have protection from high-cost specialty pharmacy claims. By specialty pharmacy, we mean gene therapy, medications that are life-saving, quality of life-enhancing, but that come with a high price. Throughout the fall of 2020, the Pension Boards, along with Humana, offered many webinars and other communications to let members know that the transition [to a Medicare Advantage Plan] was coming. We also had the opportunity to speak with a large number of members regarding their individual personal situations. The new plan became effective as of January 1, 2021. We continue to work with our members regarding the transition, and are open to any questions they may have
It’s very clear that the U.S. has taken a stop start, stop, start approach to addressing climate change. And I would say thank goodness the new administration has re-entered the Paris accord [Paris Agreement], which is the legally binding global treaty on climate change. We are really a good company of investors who have not stopped investing over a period of time and are committed to combating and fighting climate change. I'd like to highlight five examples of how the Pension Boards is invested and involved on your behalf in combating climate change.
First, almost five years ago, we initiated the screening out of all of our portfolios of companies with revenues tied to coal and tar sands, which at the time was a significant step. Second, we have taken a best- in-class approach to companies involved in fossil fuels. Primarily we've done this through the Global Sustainability Index Fund, which is an option available to accumulating members [in the Annuity Plan]. Many of you who are in are involved with that fund know that over its lifetime, it has done very well for you. Third, we've got an extremely meaningful allocation to what are called green bonds, in the hundreds of million dollars. These green bonds mandate that the companies we invest in set aside proceeds for climate change mitigation strategies.
Fourth, in the Participating Annuity, we have made a really exciting investment recently, $15 million in a private markets manager, focused on battery storage technologies that facilitate the effectiveness and the durability of wind and solar power. And finally, you are likely aware of the relaunch of the Sustainable Balanced Fund at the beginning of the year. One of the interesting strategies where we have invested $15 million on your behalf is geared not only to those companies that were prepared for the coming low-carbon future, but also those companies providing products and services aiding the transition to a sustainable low-carbon future.
The Pension Boards is committed to addressing systemic racism. We expressed that public commitment in three statements following the events of last summer that shocked and saddened all of us. The first was a pastoral letter to our members, sharing our concerns about systemic racism, confessing our complicity as part of a financial system that often denies opportunities and for the lack of further action on diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society. We also endorsed the pastoral statements of our Officers in the national setting, who deeply expressed the concerns of the whole church about this important matter. And finally, we signed on to an investor's statement to address systemic racism, a call for specific actions by investors that was signed by hundreds of other institutions like ours, faith-based foundations, public employee retirement plans, financial services companies, and even corporations. But these statements are not enough. We learned from the gun violence movement, that thoughts and prayers are not enough. And so, we had to take a deeper look and discern what specifically we could do to address diversity, inclusion, and equity. The best way for the Pension Boards to do that is through the work that we do. We hold the retirement contributions of our members in trust and manage assets on their behalf until it's time for them to take those benefits in the form of a lifetime retirement annuity. And so, we manage those funds and can take advantage of the opportunities presented by management to address various concerns. This year, through our collaborative efforts with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), an organization with $300 billion of assets under management made up of 300 faith-based partners, 64 shareholder resolutions were filed with companies asking them to take specific actions with respect to systemic racism.
That was just the tip of the iceberg of hundreds of engagements this year that took place between members of ICCR, including the Pension Boards and United Church Funds (UCF), directly engaging with companies that we own on your behalf in order to have a conversation about race and to call for action.
Another way is through the management of these funds. As you may know, we have both internal and external managers. The Investments Team works to select investments and makes decisions about our overall portfolio, but we also have external managers. And the way that we interview, recruit, and select these external managers can have an important impact on systemic racism, We try to locate managers that have a deep and abiding commitment to combating systemic racism. We are making more of a concentrated effort on that during the coming year. The Pension Boards is committed to dismantling systemic racism, but this is a long struggle that we are not always right about and that we don't always have all the answers or solutions. It is a difficult journey, but we want to make it clear that we want to hear from our members. We want to hear from the wider church about their expectations and about specific actions that we could take to address the problem.