Health insurance Act amendment passed
Legislation to amend the Health Insurance Act 1970 was approved at the weekend.
The change will allow the health minister to make any additional benefit “subject to criteria, including means test criteria, and authorise the Health Insurance Committee to determine the criteria”.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that amendment will allow the ministry “to continue to provide all persons in Bermuda access to health insurance by ensuring the plans we provide are affordable, focus on quality and ensure access to benefits”.
She said the Act will allow for the Health Insurance Committee to provide additional benefits outside of the legislated requirements of the plans, including the home-care benefit. The benefit allows for payment to people caring for elderly and disabled people in their homes.
Ms Wilson said that the ministry had to ensure that additional benefits are available to the people most in need.
She added that the amendment “provides for the establishment of some criteria for these additional benefits that would include means testing”.
Ms Wilson said: “The HIC would also be authorised to determine what the criteria will be for these benefits.”
The Health Insurance Amendment (No 2) Act 2019 was passed by MPs in the House of Assembly on Friday.
It amends the additional benefits orders made under sections 13(2) and 13B (2) of the Act in respect of the Health Insurance Plan and the FutureCare plan.
Ms Wilson said that means testing will only apply to policyholders who apply for HIP and FC after the start of the means-testing provision near the end of the month. She added that 341 people used the home-care benefit at a cost of about $6 million a year.
Ms Wilson said: “We want to ensure the viability and sustainability of these plans.
“To do so is to ensure that the population that needs them the most have access to them. “We cannot do that without establishing some criteria and ensuring there is a process for persons to show they are eligible.”
Ms Wilson added the legal change allows the HIC “the ability to do just that”.
She said the amendment also reduces the amount reimbursed from HIP and FC for services by overseas providers outside of the Health Insurance Department's preferred networks. Ms Wilson added that the reimbursement rate would remain untouched for providers inside the network.
Jeanne Atherden, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, said that it was important to consider those who would be most affected by the change.
She explained: “The people who first started to use HIP and FC were those who couldn't afford private plans.”
Ms Atherden added: “Changes today ... are going to affect some of the people that, at this point in time, we really wouldn't want to affect.”
She questioned what the Government was doing to reduce costs.
Ms Atherden said: “I don't see enough to indicate where we are in terms of reducing the utilisation. I don't see enough to indicate where we are with educating people on the role that they play in healthcare.”
Michael Dunkley, another OBA backbencher, compared the amendment to “putting a half-inch Johnson Band-Aid on stab wounds”.
He added: “It's not even going to last in the time we put it on.”