HIC wants stiffer penalties

With thousands of uninsured resident workers in the Cayman Islands, increased penalties for employers failing to provide health insurance might be coming.

Superintendent of Health Insurance Mervyn Conolly recently said the matter is under consideration.

‘The Health Insurance Commission Board has looked at the penalties in the current legislation, and, having reviewed it, are minded to make a recommendation to the Ministry [of Health] with a view to increase those penalties,’ Mr. Conolly said.

Currently under the law, employers who fail to effect and maintain a standard health insurance contract for their employees, their employees’ children and their employees’ unemployed spouses, are subject to, upon summary conviction, a fine of $5,000, and on conviction and indictment, to a fine of $10,000.

Mr. Conolly admitted the penalties might not provide sufficient detriment to some employers who don’t provide health insurance to their employees.

Through July of this year, there were approximately 46,239 people insured in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Conolly said. With a population of somewhere between 52,000 and 55,000, that means there are thousands of residents without health insurance.

‘We know there is a percentage that aren’t insured,’ he said.

Although some of the uninsured are Caymanian pensioners who wouldn’t have health insurance, there are others who are working, but their employers have not taken out or maintained health insurance for them as required by law.

Several cases against employers have been brought to court, including one against Air Tech Corporation Ltd. and Godfrey Bowen, which concluded last week.

Mr. Bowen and the company were both found guilty and fined $5,000 for the offences. In addition, the company was found guilty of illegally deducting payments from an employee’s pay for health insurance, even though there was no health insurance in place.

Health Insurance Inspector Wesley Gibson said the HIC would like to see some provisions added to the Health Insurance Law to allow for restitution of illegally deducted payments.

‘There’s nothing there right now to say that,’ he said.

Mr. Gibson explained that section 12(1) does allow for any person who has lost a benefit to which he would have been entitled – had an employer not failed to provide health insurance – to recover from the employer losses and damages resulting from that failure.

However, Mr. Gibson explained that the process would require the employee to hire a lawyer and take the matter to court. An amendment to the law that would make things easier for the aggrieved would be preferable.

Although the penalties in the Godfrey Bowen/Air Tech case were not extremely high, Mr. Gibson said the HIC was satisfied with the result of the trial.

‘There was a conviction,’ he said. ‘Defendants are not just pleading guilty; they’re putting the law to the test. Some people say the law has no teeth; but we’re getting convictions.’

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