Govt rolls out new FutureCare rates
FutureCare premiums will change next month, with Government injecting $3 million of capital into the programme to keep it affordable for seniors.
Starting May 1, all FutureCare clients will pay a monthly premium of $440 — bringing an end to the two-tier structure in place since 2010.
The new rate is an increase of $55 per month for those who were enrolled in phase one of the programme; it marks a decrease of $195 per month for those in phases two and three.
Meanwhile the premium for those on HIP will remain unchanged at $390 per month, despite the more than $54 increase in the Standard Premium Rate.
Health and Seniors Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said that it had been difficult to achieve the announced results, but added: “I feel the result is the appropriate and correct one.”
Ms Gordon Pamplin said the two-tier FutureCare structure was unfair, with policy holders paying different amounts for the exact same service based solely on when they entered the programme.
While the new single-tiered structure results in some seniors paying higher premiums, she noted that a means-testing system was still in place for those who are unable to pay.
“Any senior who finds they can’t afford the premium for FutureCare can apply to Financial Assistance,” she explained. “If that senior qualifies, they will receive FutureCare as part of their Financial Assistance benefit.”
The Minister explained that premium revisions are calculated annually by the Health Insurance Committee, who commissions an annual actuarial review.
She said indications for 2014 provided for a phase one premium that was “notably higher”, but an injection of funds was made into the programme to keep costs down.
“Your Government has been able to set this lower fee based on an injection of funds into the programme in order for the programme to remain solvent, sustainable and affordable, thereby showing our commitment to our senior’s population,” she said.
“We will continuously be examining the costs of healthcare in order that we can indeed continue to provide affordable Government insurance coverage.
“The benefits of the programmes will not change for the ensuing year, thus everyone covered by FutureCare will now pay the same premium and receive the same benefits.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry said Government had injected $3 million in capital to support FutureCare, and the size of the injection will be reviewed every year to determine how much is required to ensure the funds are solvent and the insurance product is reasonably priced.
Premier Craig Cannonier called the announcement fantastic news for Bermuda and Bermudians, praising the work of Ms Gordon-Pamplin.
“Since the inception of FutureCare, concerns have widely been expressed that the premiums charged are unfair for some policy holders who pay significantly more for the same level of healthcare,” Mr Cannonier said.
“As promised, this Government is committed to providing social end economic equity for all.”
However, Shadow Minister Zane DeSilva responded that the alterations would put pressure on those who could least afford it, while lowering the burden on the wealthy and driving up Government spending.
He called the One Bermuda Alliance’s record on seniors “depressing”.
Mr DeSilva said that with 563 seniors on Financial Assistance who were last year receiving FutureCare, the latest increase would force Financial Assistance to “fork out an additional $170,040 per month” — on top of a price cut of $60,880 for “the people who need it least”.
Questioning why Government hadn’t boosted the prescriptions benefit for seniors, Mr DeSilva added: “The OBA has a part time Minister charged with looking after the country’s largest budget and as a result hasn’t dedicated the time needed to look at things from the correct perspective.
“Unfortunately our seniors and indeed our entire population will suffer in the future.”
Are you a senior enrolled in FutureCare? Tell us what you think about the change in premiums. Contact Owain Johnston-Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
FutureCare was first announced in December 2007 as part of the PLP’s general election campaign.
As described by Premier Ewart Brown, the programme would extend benefits from the Health Insurance Programme (HIP) while being affordable for seniors.
The programme was announced to launch on April 1, 2009, with a monthly premium at that time of $260 — $60 more than HIP but including more benefits.
A month before the programme’s start date, Government announced that only those already enrolled in HIP and over the age of 65, along with seniors deemed to be “indigent” would be eligible.
Meanwhile several private insurers that had offered low cost insurance programmes for seniors cut those programmes, leaving seniors ineligible for FutureCare and unable to afford private insurance options.
As a result, Government reopened HIP to seniors while preparing the second phase of FutureCare, which came into effect in 2010. Those enrolled in the second phase were charged monthly premiums of $600, while the cost for those in the first phase increased to $300.
Health Minister Walter Roban said the cost difference was vital for the long-term viability of the programme, but Shadow Health Minister Louise Jackson criticised the different costs for the phases and rising premiums.
Premiums rose again in 2011, with the cost for those enrolled in phase one rising to $375, while those in phase two saw premiums increase to $635.
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