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OBA: Louise Jackson was right all along

The Opposition has called for Health Minister Zane DeSilva to issue “a complete and unreserved apology” to One Bermuda Alliance seniors advocate Louise Jackson for accusing her of misinforming the public.

A Government letter to FutureCare clients drew a blistering response from Shadow Health Minister Michael Dunkley, who said it vindicated Ms Jackson’s criticism of the insurance scheme’s payment plan.

That document, sent by Health Insurance Department head Collin Anderson to all FutureCare policyholders, apologises for failing to inform them of a change in the Health Insurance Department’s automated system, going back to April 1 of last year, that abruptly hit FutureCare users with a 25 percent “co-payment” for procedures.

The OBA said the letter amounted to proof that Ms Jackson had been right all along.

Initially, after the costs were first pointed out by Ms Jackson, Mr DeSilva suggested in the House of Assembly that the Opposition was misleading senior citizens by attacking the scheme.

However, the Ministry of Health letter, dated January 17, acknowledges the “significant financial impact” and “anxiety and uncertainty” caused to FutureCare’s clients.

Informing policyholders that co-payment had been intended from FutureCare’s inception, it adds: “This is a key element in health plan design and assists in reducing utilisation in the future. Co-payments are a means by which both the insurer and the insured share the claims loss experience.”

The programme is “affordable, but not free”, the letter adds. FutureCare switched from covering the total costs of procedures for outside or private physicians, to covering 75 percent.

“Co-payments of any amount can be a considerable factor in whether you obtain medical care. In these economic times every dollar counts. However, when designing FutureCare, it was necessary to ensure the future viability of the plan by utilising all the tools available,” Mr Anderson wrote.

“Delay in implementing this policy, or my failure to notify you in advance, does not lessen the need to prudently manage the plan.”

As the verbal spat between Mr DeSilva and Ms Jackson escalated over December, the OBA MP accused the Health Minister of calling her a liar on talk radio. Mr DeSilva insisted that Ms Jackson had been misinforming the public.

Last night, Sen Dunkley shrugged off whether the Minister called Ms Jackson a liar or not, but said that in light of the latest admission, an apology would be “the correct and the decent thing to do”.

And he said the letter amounted to “an admission that the public, and specifically those who signed up for FutureCare, were seriously misled about the benefit package, to the grave detriment of all those who gave up other insurance packages to switch”.

Questioning Government’s financial modelling, Mr Dunkley said FutureCare had been “irresponsibly launched”.

“For Minister DeSilva to preside over a sudden cut of benefits by 25 percent, a 25 percent that the insured will now have to come up with themselves in a co-paying arrangement, and then call it a tweaking of the system, speaks volumes about the disconnect that exists between him and FutureCare’s target population, who are the elderly poor.”

Questioning if healthcare providers would demand the portion up front, and what would be done if the insured were unable to pay their portion, Mr Dunkley said the Health Minister should bear the blame.

He also suggested that Mr Anderson had been made “a scapegoat civil servant” in the debacle over FutureCare.

Mr DeSilva could not be reached for comment last night.

Louise Jackson

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Published February 03, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 03, 2012 at 5:32 am)

OBA: Louise Jackson was right all along

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