OBA: Civil servants have lost dental coverage because premium is in arrears

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Thousands of civil servants have lost their dental insurance coverage because Government failed to pay the premium, Shadow Health Minister Michael Dunkley claimed last night.

But the Ministry of Finance dismissed the claim as “extraordinary”, insisting there has been no suspension of coverage and no concerns have been raised by employees.

Senator Dunkley argued the insurer for the dental portion of the Government Employees Health Insurance plan suspended coverage because Government premium payments fell into arrears.

GEHI patients’ status is described as “inactive — customer must contact their employer” on the portal used to provide dentists with patient insurance coverage information, according to the One Bermuda Alliance politician.

Government responded that it has a respectable relationship with the insurer and has received no communication that dental coverage has been discontinued.

Sen Dunkley said in a statement: “Dental insurance coverage for Government employees has been suspended because the Government has failed to pay the premium for their coverage.

“The suspension was made by the insurer for the dental portion of the Government Employees Health Insurance plan after Government premium payments to the insurer fell into arrears.”

Referring to the ‘inactive’ status on the portal, he said: “The ‘inactive’ status means that Government employees’ coverage has been suspended even though they’ve paid their portion of the premium through automatic deductions from their paycheques.

“Under the terms of GEHI, premium payments for employees are handled by the Government, as their employer.

“The Government’s failure to pay is one more real life example of its failure to take care of the public purse, something that is affecting the lives of more and more Bermudians.

“Businesses are increasingly reluctant to do business with the Government because it is so late in paying its bills. Now, its own employees are paying the price.

“This amounts to a betrayal of the working trust that is supposed to exist between employer and employee, and makes the Government a hypocrite for wanting to ‘name and shame’ employers for failure to make employment tax and social insurance payments.

“The Government must step forward immediately to explain why it is not honouring its responsibility to its employees to maintain their GEHI dental coverage.

“It should also explain what it is doing to rectify the matter.”

Responding, a Ministry of Finance spokeswoman circulated a press release saying: “There has been no suspension of coverage.”

The Ministry’s statement read: “It is extraordinary the comment released to the public in relation to dental coverage for Government employees.

“The public should be aware that to ensure consistency and efficiency in payment processing of dental claims, an insurer was selected a few years ago to administer Government’s dental insurance programme.

“During this time the insurer and Government have had a respectable relationship and it would be extraordinary that dental coverage has been discontinued with no communication with the Government of Bermuda.

“That does not accord with our records. Also to date we have received no enquiries or been advised of concerns from civil servants on this matter.”

As a result of recently passed legislation, medical practitioners will soon no longer be allowed to ask patients for upfront payments.

Sen Dunkley said the dental community had expressed concerns they are forced to rely totally on timely payments from insurers yet GEHI has “a long history of late payments”.

The Ministry spokeswoman said: “In ensuring that GEHI is compliant with the upfront payments legislation that takes effect on August 1, their focus is on tightening their processes, and clearing up any backlog.

“As such all payments will be made within the legislated 30 day time frame going forward.”

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Published Jul 9, 2012 at 9:09 am (Updated Jul 9, 2012 at 9:08 am)

OBA: Civil servants have lost dental coverage because premium is in arrears

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