A premiums hike in the government employee’s health insurance scheme could hit seniors on fixed incomes, campaigners for the elderly have warned.
Now the Bermuda Senior Islanders’ Centre has urged older Bermudians to push politicians to force down health insurance costs in the wake of a rates rise in the scheme for government workers.
Contributions from public sector staff and retirees increased by more than 5 per cent last week, which increased their monthly charge to more than $400. Rates for non-employed spouses and dependents were also affected by the hikes.
Fred Hassell, the director of Bermuda Senior Islanders’ Centre, said the organisation was worried about the impact on people with limited means.
He said: “We’re concerned about seniors affected by increases in the cost of living while on determined incomes.
“We feel for those who can’t absorb the increase and are forced to use their meagre income to cover the additional increase in premiums.
“Our advice for fellow seniors is to keep up the pressure on MPs to do more to get the cost of health insurance in the reach of all citizens.”
Government Employees Health Insurance rates went up last Friday from $381.85 to $402.51 a month for each worker or retiree and the cost for non-employed spouses rose by nearly $31 to $603.77 — a 5.4 per cent increase.
The Ministry of Finance claimed the increases struck “the right balance” between availability and cost of the coverage. The change came after seniors and other recipients of Contributory Pension Fund benefits heard last December payments would be boosted by 1.4 per cent, with the rise backdated to August.
Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern Bermuda, highlighted that several problems needed to be tackled as the population ages.
A population projections report predicted that one in four residents will be aged 65 or over by 2026.
Dr Fleming said: “The state of the GEHI programme is indicative of the severe impact of the demographics of our time.
“A delicate balance must be exercised to keep the plan solvent while at the same time not causing financial harm to those who may need the coverage the most, especially for retirees.
“This demographic scenario will play itself out many times over on many different fronts as the Bermuda population ages rapidly.
“The oversight body of GEHI have a responsibility to ensure that it is available to current employees and retirees.
“Policyholders can inquire and make a judgment call on how well GEHI is being managed.”
Dr Fleming added: “In the meantime however, demographics are not on our side when it comes to insurance.
“FutureCare remains an option for those seniors who cannot afford increased premiums.
“However, even FutureCare will have its limits at some point.
“We encourage seniors to think about options, albeit these options are extremely limited.”
The GEHI scheme covers all government pensioners, employees and their dependents,
The Government’s website said it was a programme that provided “premium healthcare at fair rates” with swift claims processing.
A Ministry of Finance spokeswoman said the increases came after an actuarial report on the scheme.
She added: “This premium adjustment will help to ensure that the GEHI plan remains viable in the long term and meets the primary objective for which it was established, to provide affordable health insurance benefits for government employees, retired government employees, and their enrolled dependents.
“The ministry has considered the impact that these premium increases will have on the members of the plan and believes this adjustment strikes the right balance between social and fiscal responsibility.”