Premier issues stark warning on healthcare

| 09/04/2019 | 51 Comments
Cayman News Service

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour talks with a staff member at the hospital

(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has warned that employers and workers will have to pay more into private pension schemes because many retirees are not able to cover health insurance costs when they quit work, which means government is picking up their costly medical bills. As members of Finance Committee voted Monday for an additional $11.5 million for tertiary healthcare costs for the uninsured and under-insured, the premier outlined the connected crises of inadequate pensions and insurance costs. He revealed that his Cabinet is divided on the solutions, while his health minister seemed unable to deliver any solutions at all.

As lawmakers discussed the supplementary allocation and the challenges presented by increasing healthcare costs, with a growing number of uninsured people over 65, the premier outlined his concerns about the unsustainable situation of government continuing to fund people’s medical care because they cannot afford insurance.

McLaughlin explained that not everyone retiring is becoming indigent but many of them are having to declare themselves medically indigent because when they get ill they cannot afford medical attention. While they may be able to pay bills and day-to-day living expenses, they cannot afford any significant healthcare because they are either uninsured or under-insured.

“Coupled with the fact that the pension scheme that we have is wholly inadequate — I don’t know who is ever going to be able to live in Cayman on $1,250 to $1,300 a month, which is what they get generally as a pension — these two things have created a massive, massive social issue,” the premier said.

Given that retirees are coming to government to help them and fix the problem, he said, “truthfully we need to significantly increase what is contributed by employers and employees to get people’s pensions down the road anywhere near an amount they can sustain themselves on and get everybody after they retire enrolled in an insurance programme”.

“Government cannot continue this,” the premier said. “All we need is one economic downturn and government revenues to fall off and we are in huge problems,” he added, as he warned that people will be going without medical treatment because government will not be able to fund the growing and unsustainable pressure on the public purse. 

Lawmakers largely agreed that government is essentially subsidizing the insurance sector, and that as a result a structural problem has been created that is not easy to tackle. But as MLAs wrestled with an issue that the opposition accepted is a national, not just a government, problem, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour appeared to struggle to find any solutions.

He said that consultants were still, after more than a year, working on developing the proposed SHIC65 insurance plan, which other members believe is doomed to failure. Seymour revealed that he had not been the one to direct the consultants and had not liked what they came back with. He had asked them to take another look, he said, but would not reveal what the suggested premiums for SHIC65 have been so far.

The premier said he believed that CINICO should be opened up to everyone. He said he supported the idea that those covered by the government’s insurance company already, such as civil servants, should also be given access to all the islands’ healthcare facilities and not just the HSA.

He said that would also help solve the problem of public sector workers employed by statutory authorities and government companies joining private health schemes, enabling them to access the wider health sector and encourage them to join CINICO and increase the pool.

But McLaughlin admitted that this was not yet a Cabinet position, as he implied that not everyone was with him on a move that would be inching towards a single pay system.

But the idea of a national insurance programme is gathering increasing support in the wider community as the realities of healthcare cost begin to bite more people.

See the Finance Committee proceedings dealing with the health ministry on CIGTV.

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Category: Government Finance, Health, Health Insurance, Politics

Comments (51)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The requirement to pay into a pension has only been on the laws for 20 years, anyone saving the minimum into their plan for such a short period isn’t going to have enough to live on. Usually 35/40 years of saving should get you something decent, so I guess this problem will get worse before getting better. Sorry. I know I won’t be able to retire here. I guess that is unless you get elected, where after one term of 4 years you will get 1/3rd of your salary paid for life. That’s about 40k per year, if you want the same return from a private pension fund you would need to have a pot of around $1mio…nice to be a politician I guess. (the estimate is based on the recommended max you should take out of a fund 4-5%).

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  2. Say it like it is says:

    The Premier never misses the opportunity to preserve his votes. No mention of the vast army of civil servants and their dependents (including himself) paying for their gold plated medical coverage – rather the opposite, all these vultures he says should be able to go to any local health facility for treatment, whilst the private sector continue to pay through the nose for this priviledge.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians really should get upset about their politicians GOLD PLATED medical coverage. A major reason why the old boys and girls keep running election after election. Where else would they ever get such lucrative and financially rewarding jobs with their levels of intelligence?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear Alden, now just wait till interest rates go up. Then the damage you have done to Caymanians will be there for all to see. The cost of living is going up as incomes (in real terms) are going down. The lines are going to cross soon. Then what you going to do?

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  4. Anonymous says:

    You want the private sector to fix what the civil service has created? Nah brah, you trippin.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Glad to see Alden finally waking up to this issue. MLA Chris Saunders have been banging on about the insurance companies being able to cherry pick their clients and dumping the expensive ones on the governemnt purse.

    As for his Health Minister having no solution, maybe its because there is no leadership?

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    • Anonymous says:

      The former Minister of Finance, Hon. Marco Archer, raised the issue of government’s health care liability on several occasions, warning that something needed to be done and soon. But Alden was afraid to support his Minister. Now he wants to look like a hero for sounding the alarm after the house has burnt.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    the private health insurance business needs to be done away with and CINICO become a national health insurance scheme for all residents. CINICO will have to raised their premiums to ensure they never operate in the red either. And medical fees will also need to be better regulated to not be like the united states and other failures we seem to be mimicking.

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    • Anonymous says:

      CINICO makes sense but like so many government entities is abused by those out in power. The last CEO has been suspended leaving none at the helm.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    There is no free lunch (unless you are destitute,) and medical care is expensive. Someone has to pay, and it’s just a question who, when and how. There are many ways to do this. Unfortunately medical care for seniors is so expensive that taxes on everyone (in one form or another) are the only way any country has been able to ensure that the elderly have health care. Basically young people have to pay more than they benefit, until they get old and the situation reverses. Cayman has been lucky to have government revenue of a half billion dollars a year and be able to dip into this to pay for care of the elderly and destitute (without taxing the people.) When you build the dock there will not be enough money for this anymore. All those landing fees will be paying off the dock debt.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman is one of the few countries in the world where the Government brings in more than it spends. CIG needs to get the house in order and prioritize a whole lot better than they think they are.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    1. Who can afford this increase with the tourism Minimum Wage being $4.50 per hour? These new wages are CRIMINAL!
    2. What do u call an Insurance plan where the Premium is higher than the benefits? CRIMINAL!

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Great that Alden recognises that nobody can live on $1,250 a month in Cayman. At a minimum wage of only $6 you’re looking at much less than that though. So why isn’t the minimum wage increased to a level that provides an amount even the Premier can agree is sufficient to live on.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Alden, you have allowed Cayman to be overwhelmed with possibly thousands of impecunious foreign nationals who are now becoming a burden on society, all while almost guaranteeing employment to any foreign national who is willing to work for $6 an hour.

    Your training and education systems, developed when you were Minister of Education, are abject failures.

    Your government refuses to enforce almost any law designed to protect Caymanians.

    What did you think your policies would result in happening?

    Of course, you can claim a bunch of others assisted you, and you would be right. Almost the entire government should be embarassed. This was inevitable.

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  11. Say what says:

    There are several solutions and many of them have been written already below.
    Unfortunately, we’ll about time, civil servants should start to contribute to health care.
    This current government is truly trying to f.. With us now.
    You know what, there is so much I wanna write, let me take a deep breath, have a rum or two and hope CNS deletes this article ..

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  12. Brian Burns says:

    Just give me my pension money in full at retirement and let me administer it properly and as i see fit.

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    • Anonymous says:

      2:04 pm, get it and loose it, then you will be seeking help later on. Not a wise suggestion.

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      • Anonymous says:

        As opposed to be prevented from getting your own money other than a trickle, and watching the pension company lose it or consume it in fees? The pension law is designed to line the pockets of the pension companies by guaranteeing them revenue, bit like the health insurance scheme lines the pockets of the insurers. But you are right – people can be feckless. So how about this – open the pension product market to foreign firms who are tightly regulated, charge way less fees, and will give you products that mean you can actually access all your pension savings before you die -or pass them unto your heirs. Now that sounds fair – no argument people will lose the money or spend it on sin, and it would be way cheaper – problem is, the local firms wont like it, and CIG knows one hand washes another.

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      • Anonymous says:

        That depends on the person actually but it was once told to me that the idea is based on assisting those of us who dont know how to save. I dont get hair and nails done, buy 800$ phones, go out for meals 3X a week and especially since Ivan, I stop to think if wasting $$ on material stuff is worth it. Some of us have disposable income and dont put enough aside for a rainy day. And then there are sadly others who dont have any disposable income after paying bills. They are losing 5% for tomorrow when they cant even get by today!!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Many guaranteed products are out there, that if the law permitted you to transfer your pension, you could have fixed income for life. Annuities are one of them, the problem is that if you do not have a lump some of money you cannot benefit from the product. I would encourage everyone to have a separate retirement savings that you can manage for yourself. If did not do so, i don’t know i what i would do today.

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        • Anonymous says:

          CNS can you confirm what products in Cayman are approved to transfer pensions into? Would be good for the public to know their options, if any, and if there are no options, why has the government sat on this? People are suffering!

          CNS: I’ll pass the question onto Auntie.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mean while Kenneth Bryan asked the following question.

      Can the Minister say if there are any prisoners in prison who are a risk to our community.

      I kid you not!!

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  13. Anonymous says:

    His Health Minister does not have a solution? Now there’s a surprise. LOL

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is a solution which every other developed country in the world has for their public servants and health insurance costs. Make the Cayman Islands public servants pay health care premiums like every other public servant does in the U.K, U.S, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc.

      WHY SHOULD CAYMAN ISLANDS PUBLIC SERVANTS NOT PAY HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUMS?

      The free ride must end.

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      • Anon says:

        And make the Private sector cover their Retirees if they worked for them over 10 years instead of dumping them on CINICO.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Remember when Marco Archer was the Minister for Finance, he raised that same concern and was criticised for it. He saw the inevitable consequences of not dealing with the problem. Many civil servants agreed and understood that something had to be done to avoid a bigger problem. He made it clear to us that choice of health care provider would be available to us. But unfortunately he he was criticised and then betrayed.

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    • Fed-up Caymanian says:

      Perhaps he could go into the office occasionally. That would be a good start Bobo.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    1. The health minister cant get anywhere because he is being blocked internally from getting information to try to resolve anything. There is obviously corruption somewhere within the health insurance /services authority.
    2. Gambling is illegal in Cayman but if the Govt continues to allow pension funds to be traded aka “GAMBLED” then people will continue to see 10% loss of pension funds over a 6 month period and obviously be short of having sufficient funds when they eventually retire.

    If the govt continue to hide the corruption and fail to address these issues where and how they need to be addressed, nothing will ever improve.

    Increasing pension contributions and health premiums just allows more theft and gambling by those that the govt is covering up for!

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  15. Anonymous says:

    No! It’s not a scheme, it’s a scam!!

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  16. David S,, says:

    First Alden, pay everybody their pension and stop holding it hostage because you and your cronies don’t like when they criticize your wrongdoing.
    Secondly, I 21st century, no such thing as under Insured, because your i surance laws should mandate that evergine is elogible for insurance.You should not allow insurance providers and doctors to milk any sick person of all their savings to fill the jaws of these healthcare greedy sharks.
    Equality is what s missing.
    We rejected gay marriage
    And we reject that what you are saying is that if you have money you can live, but if your poor, you the govt decides the poor must die.What a shame.that looks so my child socialism!
    Alden, do better please.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    get lost alden…your spineless leadership failed to address the real issue of civil servants not making any health or pension contributions.
    go home and read miller shaw and e& y reports.
    the usual do-nothing ppm.

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    • Anonymous says:

      BANG ON 1:28. Make civil servants pay health and pension contributions like everywhere else in the real world. The free ride for civil servants must end.

      Read the E & Y and Miller Shaw reports and you will have your answers.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Premier should also be issuing stark warnings to Juju and Mac to hold their tongues and respect the dignity of their positions but he’s just spineless empty nut sack to do anything. Any respectable or even somewhat respectable country in the world would have asked for their resignations but then again #Caymankind. As for the poor retirees? God help us all because we are all going in this direction and most of us will be reliant on the government and government may not be there for us.

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  19. Hypocrates says:

    Government has an obligation to ensure public safety: hence there is a police force.

    Government has an obligation to provide free education: it does.

    So why should Government not be obliged to provide free healthcare, funded out of public revenue just like the police and education services?

    Anyone wishing to pay out of their pocket for private medical treatment could still do so; anyone wishing to contribute to the profits of an insurance company could still do so; but there is no reason why the majority of the population should be compelled to follow suit.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Alden is so out of touch.There are people who have been struggling earning $1,200-$1,300 per month for ten years now.
    This success story has not been enjoyed by every one.

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  21. Anonymous says:

    It is about time, the current situation is not working. There should be one pension and one health insurance. Also this nonsense of letting workers “sub-contract” so that the employer or in most cases the developers get out of paying anything towards health and pension needs to stop. If the employee does not pay than the main contractor needs to be made to pay all. That will stop it because no one will want to have to cover these costs.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Maybe its now time for civil servants and politicians to start paying for their medical coverage. This would free up huge amounts of cash to meet health care for the needy.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why should civil servants and politicians not pay anything towards their health care coverage? Time to get real about health care costs in Cayman.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    This is going to be a huge issue for the next election. Our politicians need to get moving on a solution ASAP.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    You could make my pension take up half of my salary from today and that would still not pay for me to get successful cancer treatment just after retirement.

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  25. Anonymous says:

    no matter how much more is paid into my local private pension scheme it will not make a an iota of a difference. Over the course of 15 years my total pension pot is about CI$5k more than actually paid in. A growth of maybe 0.25% per annum. This pension provider would be out of business in the UK or US due to its failure to ensure any proper returns for its customers.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Rubbish. What plan could be performing so poorly?

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    • Anonymous says:

      I just received my statement rom Silver Thatch for the last quarter of 2018 and I lost $10,000 just like that. I have never earned that much throughout the years its been there. That is a hard pill for me to swallow.

      • Anonymous says:

        Silver Thatch is a total joke in terms of returns. All the people who administer it should be FIRED for total non performance.

      • Anonymous says:

        Me too. Lost $9,000 on $87,000 that its taken me 16 years to put in. Gone. Just like that. And yet gambling is supposedly illegal.

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