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Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation faces financial uncertainty

Fiona Rodriguez-Roberts, the executive director of Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation (File photograph)

The future of Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation hangs in the balance as spiralling health insurance costs and other factors have left the charity in financial difficulty, its executive director said.

Fiona Rodriguez-Roberts, who leads the organisation and is also a concerned citizen, wrote a Letter to the Editor published today, where she said that healthcare coverage for her staff would increase by 23 per cent this month, leaving her “baffled and frustrated”.

She said she was told the rise was based on the fact her staff were mostly older women and that other companies had advised her the same.

The Ministry of Heath said the government-controlled portion of the insurance premium, the Standard Premium Rate, had remained unchanged for the past three years and that its goal of implementing universal health coverage would help to drive down health costs.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette this week, Ms Rodriguez-Roberts said that if the charity did not receive a significant amount of money within the next three months when its fiscal year ends, it could end up closing.

She said: “Everybody’s take-home pay will go down this month because their health insurance has gone up. We have three months left in our fiscal year so for the next three months, everyone is taking home less.

“In the new year, I will be putting everyone’s pay up again because my staff need to have a living wage. I have been trying to give them a living wage.

“We have not reduced the programming. We kept running them because our mission is to empower the children and turning the children away is not what we wanted to do.

“I have not significantly increased the cost of our classes and camps before this point.

“Registration has opened today for September classes and parents have been notified about the true cost of the programmes so I don’t know how registration is going to go. It was a significant jump.

“Things have to shift. We need a good chunk of money in the next three months. If we continue to go the way that we are going, we will have to eventually close down.”

Ms Rodriguez-Roberts said that the donor community was stretched and, contrary to what many believed, the charity did not receive any government funding.

She explained: “We run our Creative Minds Programme that receives all of the government preschools and some P1 and P2.

“Sometimes people think that because we are working with the government schools then we must be funded by the Government but we are not.

“The schools individually pool together and make donations, which is fantastic, but it doesn’t pay for the programme.”

As well as the public school programmes, KAF has its own preschool, it creates lessons and works art into school curriculum areas, including social studies, science, maths and literacy.

It runs an after-school programme, camps and home schooling. It also collaborates with other charities on certain programmes.

Ms Rodriguez-Roberts said: “We have to increase our donor asks — that is not increasing because everyone’s need in the non-profit world is increasing. It is happening to everybody.

“We put our costs up which, in turn, means that we will have to fundraise more because we need to be accessible. We are between a rock and a hard place.

“In order for us to thrive, we need people to donate, we need people to volunteer and we need people to promote.”

Ms Rodriguez-Roberts questioned how, under a labour government, the cost of living had been able to rise so significantly.

“We have had a labour government that has been in power for the best part of 20 years. I have yet to see significant shifts for Bermuda, for our people.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said: “This experience demonstrates exactly why we refused to increase the cost of the Government's portion of health insurance for Bermudian families.

"Insurance companies are for-profit businesses and so their increases reflect the duty they owe to their shareholders, while the Government understands the concerns about the rising cost of healthcare in Bermuda and taking action to ensure the wellbeing and financial stability of the entire community remains our top priority."

While Ms Rodriguez-Roberts did not disclose the name of her insurance company, The Royal Gazette sent general questions to three major private providers.

A spokesman for Argus Insurance said: “Insurers must adhere to strict legal and regulatory guidelines that prevent commenting on individual client accounts.

“Generally, health insurance premiums can be influenced by a variety of factors including but not limited to changes in healthcare costs, demographic factors, and claims history.

“As insurers, we are committed to providing fair and equitable service to all our clients, ensuring that premium adjustments are transparent.”

A second insurer said it did not comment on specific contract terms while the third did not provide responses by press time.

Government’s insurance policy

While private insurance companies can and often do adjust their rates independently, the government-controlled portion of the insurance premium, the Standard Premium Rate, has remained unchanged for the past three years.

When government actuaries advised the Ministry of Health to increase the SPR by $45 per insured person per month — an increase that would impact everyone's health insurance premium — we decided to freeze the SPR instead. This decision was made with our residents' financial wellbeing in mind, preventing an additional $540 annual expense for each person. Our decision to freeze rates was not supported by the Opposition.

By freezing the SPR for the third consecutive year, we have shielded our residents and employers from a government-mandated premium hike this year. This move reflects our commitment to easing the financial burden on our community, which is not reflected by private insurers — and why we are advancing universal healthcare.

This labour government has consistently demonstrated our dedication to lessening the financial burden on Bermudians wherever possible,

It is imperative that everyone have access to quality, affordable healthcare. That's why we're advancing healthcare reform and actively working to:

Achieve universal health coverage: We are committed to ensuring that every Bermudian has access to essential healthcare without financial hardship which is a goal from the Progressive Labour Party’s first election platform in 1963, which will start rolling out in 2025.

Collect and analyse data: The recent Bermuda Health Council Amendment Act equips us with better tools to gather and analyse healthcare data, enabling more informed decision-making to control costs for Bermudians and improve care.

Engage stakeholders: We are in ongoing discussions with insurers, healthcare providers and community organisations to implement collaborative solutions to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for all.

Visit https://www.healthstrategy.bm/ for more information.

Information provided by the Ministry of Health

Ms Rodriguez-Roberts said that while she understood there were many needs in the non-profit sector, funding for the arts was imperative.

She added: “With more and more information coming out about the detriment of technology for children and about older children getting depression and anxiety, how can we possibly, even for a heartbeat, consider that the arts for children is not important?

“With so much research backing it, I don’t understand why any arts programme would be cut back now.”

Donations to the charity can be made by direct deposit via the Bank of Butterfield: Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation account number: 20-006-060-807-509-100. For more information about KAF, visithttps://kaf.bm/

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Published June 13, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated June 13, 2024 at 7:46 am)

Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation faces financial uncertainty

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