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Govt to boost HIP and FutureCare premiums payments

Premiums for HIP and Future Care will be increased as of April 1, it was announced yesterday.

And some 175 employees could be at risk because their bosses have not been paying their health insurance premiums.

HIP Premiums will increase from $385 to $390 per month, while Future Care, the health insurance programme for seniors, will see its premiums increase from $375 to $385 per month for phase one policy holders. Premiums for phases two and three policyholders will remain the same at $635 per month.

The changes were announced yesterday at a press conference held by Health Minister Zane DeSilva.

Future Care had ended its third year in a strong financial position but claims are expected to increase significantly in future year, he said.

And the Ministry was acting on actuarial advice “to ensure the sustainability of the Funds”. Benefits will remain the same.

As of the end of last year, FutureCare had 2,919 clients.

Minister DeSilva also revealed that some 51 employers have been in premium arrears for more than 90 days, some for more than a year.

The Health Insurance Department is now cancelling the policies and about 175 employees are impacted, he said.

“The Department started the group clean-up project in February 2011 and the progress has been extremely slow in having employers address their premium arrears,” the Minister said.

The Health Insurance Act, 1970 requires employers and the self-employed to provide and maintain insurance coverage for themselves and their employees.

“The Implication for these group policy terminations is that employees under these groups will be terminated,” Mr DeSilva said.

Mr DeSilva added: “We recommend that employees actively pursue their employers in the first instance regarding their health insurance coverage status as it is the employer’s responsibility to pay on their behalf.”

He would not reveal the names of the recalcitrant employers, when queried. “I’m hopeful that those that are in arrears will sit down and will be able to work out repayment plans with the Department,” he said.

But he said that naming and shaming the employers could also be an option, “especially if employers are collecting the premiums”.

Colin Anderson, manager of the Health Insurance Department, accompanied Mr DeSilva at the press conference.

The Minister confirmed that the employees were at risk and some of the employers were breaking the law and that legal action was “under consideration”.

Mr Anderson said that the employers had been reported to the Government’s Compliance Section which works other agencies such as Transport Control Department.

And he indicated that not all the employers may be breaking the law as some may have decided to change their insurance provider.

“Some of it is an information problem. They have not come in to notify us if they have insurance somewhere else. It’s just that they haven’t paid a premium with us,” Mr Anderson said, adding that a number of employers could not be contacted.

“When the time is right, if we’ve exhausted all avenues, then the name and shame will have to come in,” the Minister said.

Mr Anderson reassured the media that every single impacted employee is being contacted. “But our first course of action is to deal with the employer” as the group policy contract is between the employer and the Health Insurance Committee.

Employees could also contact their health insurance provider directly, if they have any concerns, Mr DeSilva said.

Mr Anderson added that employees may also want to check whether employers are up to date with their social insurance contributions which can be easily done through the Department of Social Insurance website.

“We tend to find where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In other words, if they are not paying contributions to one Government entity they tend not to be paying to someone else,” he said.

“So if they find they have been working for this company for so many years and they have not been paying their social insurance contributions, in most cases they are not paying health insurance as well.”

The Minister of Health Zane De Silva held a press conference yesterday regarding HIP and FutureCare rates. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 27, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated March 27, 2012 at 9:52 am)

Govt to boost HIP and FutureCare premiums payments

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