Why should our seniors carry the burden?
How many times have you heard the plight of a senior who often has to make a choice between paying insurance and obtaining another necessity such as food or paying for a utility bill?
Health insurance costs are set to increase on November 1 this year. While private health insurance providers may have already processed their renewal premiums for 2021-22, temporarily sparing policyholders from the $45 per month Standard Premium Rate increase, holders of HIP and FutureCare policies will see premiums increase by $30 per month. There will be a $1,000 prescription benefit added for residents insured by HIP while seniors on FutureCare will see their medicine benefits increase from $2,000 to $3,000.
The cost of FutureCare premiums is already high and at $500.14 — or $1,498.48 for persons who do not meet certain eligibility requirements. So, while an extra $30 a month or $360 a year may not sound like a lot for most, for many seniors who rely on pension funds of roughly $1,000 a month to survive, any extra payout is a great deal for them.
It is difficult to strike the right balance between covering costs and providing adequate coverage, but we ought not be adding to the financial burden of our seniors; we should be seeking ways to further support them. Earlier this year, legislation was passed to establish a Drug Formulary that would regulate the cost of commonly used prescription medications. If the costs are set to decrease, why add to seniors’ monthly payments if prescription prices for many of the common medications relied upon will go down anyway?
The Government uses funds obtained from the people to pay for benefits, but many people cannot afford or can barely afford to pay extra without having to sacrifice something else.
There are several contributing factors to the high cost of healthcare in Bermuda. We have an ageing population, fewer people paying into the system and more persons requiring hospital services. While we cannot prevent ageing, we can do more to keep people healthy as they age; we can create an environment that entices Bermudians to return home to enhance and contribute to our community.
Another thing we should do is revisit our immigration policies to increase the number of guest workers on island. While this idea is unpopular with some, we cannot separate the high cost of healthcare discussion from the need to increase the number of persons working on island. Having more people working and contributing, purchasing goods and using services on island is necessary for helping to keep the island economically viable.
As much as people would like for the island to be self-sustaining by taking a Bermudians-only approach, the country cannot survive with “just us”. The increasing cost of healthcare and a contracting economy that has us teetering on the brink of financial collapse highlight this.
We have a collective and individual responsibility to keep healthcare and other costs down. So let’s do what is required without further burdening our seniors who have already given so much to help establish our community as we know it today.
• Robin Tucker, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, is the Shadow Minister for Social Development and Seniors