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Private health costs won’t go up in line with Government premiums increase

Increases in government health insurance premiums will not mean automatic jumps in rates for private insurance, experts have said.

Michelle Jackson, the executive vice-president of insurance giant BF&M’s life and health department, said the company had heard from customers that “costs are too high, and prohibitive for some”.

She added: “We are doing all that we can to keep those costs in check. We know any premium increase is challenging.”

Ms Jackson said that BF&M had already processed its insurance renewals for 2021.

She added that other companies were likely to have done the same before the announcement of increases to government health insurance premiums in the House of Assembly last Friday.

The increased rates, which come into force on November 1, will affect the standard premium rate, as well as the Health Insurance Plan and FutureCare for seniors.

Ms Jackson said that the $45 a month rise in the standard premium rate would be added to the mutual reinsurance fund, one of the SPR’s components, scheduled to rise to $376.97 when the new rates comes into effect.

HIP and FutureCare will each rise by $30 a month.

Private insurers collect the MRF payments from customers under the present arrangement, but all the money is passed on to the Government.

Part of the MRF covers payments to the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said last Friday that the hospital had been “particularly challenged” in the last year.

Ms Wilson said the SPR increases would cover care for uninsured women and a decline in the pool of insured adults, as well as extra hospital costs.

HIP and FutureCare will both go up to cover higher prescription drug benefits.

The news received a guarded welcome from Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern.

She said the rises “may be a tough pill to swallow for older workers already challenged in these times to make ends meet”.

But Dr Fleming added: “The socio-economic benefits may, however, mitigate the financial pain felt by the insured, at this delicate time in our economy.

“Those with private insurance must be vigilant that additional private insurance rate hikes do not follow outside of these recent legislated changes to the SPR, as this would be egregious.”

Dr Fleming said FutureCare’s boost to covered medication from $2,000 to $3,000 would “no doubt be welcomed by many seniors and their families – even if the 6 per cent increase to premiums is not received so favourably”.

She added: “There are still seniors reporting that their prescription drug coverage runs out before the end of the insured year.

“This increase in coverage will allow them to get the medication they need without falling into financial hardship.”

Dr Fleming said the health minister was “in an unenviable position”.

She added: “In Bermuda, FutureCare and HIP are considered healthcare safety nets.

“They must be administered with fiscal prudence so that healthcare coverage remains sustainable and available at a cost that most older adults and the underinsured can continue to afford.”

She said the need for the increases had been explained by Ms Wilson on Friday in the House.

Dr Fleming added: “These are difficult decisions to make.”

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Published September 17, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated September 17, 2021 at 7:13 am)

Private health costs won’t go up in line with Government premiums increase

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