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Pandemic hits health insurance cover as firms fail to pay premiums

Warning: Ricky Brathwaite, the chief executive of the Bermuda Health Council (File photograph)

The number of complaints against employers that have failed to make health insurance payments for staff has risen because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been claimed.

The Bermuda Health Council said there had been a 20 per cent increase in the number of terminated policies reported by insurers in 2020 compared to 2019, with 525 policies reported in total.

A BHeC spokeswoman said reports suggested that a “high prevalence of employer non-compliance” continued this year, with 223 policy cancellations reported in the first six months.

She added: “In addition to monthly reports provided by insurers, the Bermuda Health Council continues to receive a significant number of complaints and queries from members of the public regarding employer compliance with the Health Insurance Act 1970.

“The majority of complaints and queries received in 2020 pertained to the cancellation of coverage during a layoff period due to Covid.”

BHeC said the majority of complaints involved employers’ failure to obtain health insurance for employees, deductions from employees’ wages that were not used to pay for health insurance and deduction of more money than needed for premiums.

The spokeswoman said: “If an employer is non-compliant with the law and an employee incurs medical bills during a period of non-coverage, the employer is responsible for paying the medical bills, which are often more expensive than monthly premiums.

“If an employee seeks medical attention and learns their health insurance policy is not active, they should submit the medical bills to their employer immediately for payment.

Ricky Brathwaite, the chief executive officer of the council, said: “The right to healthcare is an internationally recognised human right.

“In Bermuda, that right is usually tied to having adequate insurance so that you can access services that mitigate your financial risks related to uncertain catastrophic health events.

“At this time, having adequate insurance is usually tied to your employment.

“As we seek to achieve universal health coverage, it is critical that employers support the human rights of their employees.”

Dr Brathwaite added: “If businesses, especially small community businesses, are struggling to pay for health insurance, seek help from entities such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.

“Businesses strive to be sustainable and for some so much personal time and financial investment has gone into following a dream or passion. The realities of the current market can be overwhelming and stressful.

“So yes, we understand that these times are economically challenging, however, it is not fair to stay silent while exacerbating the risks to health of your employees through not supporting their human rights.”

Sousa’s Landscape Management is one of 17 companies listed by BHeC as having failed to “provide the evidence requested as proof that the employer had effected or continued in force a contract of health insurance”.

Jeff Sousa, the president of the company, said: “Our company like so many others is feeling the pain of these truly trying times we are all going through.

“We are in the process of putting additional financing in place and I assure you our company’s health insurance is our highest priority.”

Anyone concerned about their health insurance coverage should contact BHeC on 292 6420 or e-mail healthcouncil@bhec.bm.

BHeC publishes the names of non-compliant employers on its website to give employees another way to check their health insurance status and also to encourage employers to stick to the rules.

The list can be found here. Editor’s note: The link to this web page was previously incorrect and has now been corrected.

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Published October 22, 2021 at 2:19 pm (Updated October 22, 2021 at 2:19 pm)

Pandemic hits health insurance cover as firms fail to pay premiums

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