Today’s Editorial for March 10: We should be ashamed

A young Filipino woman died recently of head injuries sustained from being struck by someone arrested for drink driving.

Although being run over by a suspected drunk driver is bad enough, what happened next to Carol Romero is something that should cause us all to take pause and consider what is really important.

Ms Romero had the fatal misfortune of having the standard health insurance contract, which only provides a $25,000 maximum benefit for a single episode of injury or illness. It is doubtful that $25,000 would have even been enough to cover a catastrophic injury or illness when the Health Insurance Law came into effect 11 years ago; it is without a doubt unable to cover those costs today.

This is no new revelation. Just about everyone in the medical industry, the health insurance industry, the Health Insurance Commission, the Health Services Authority and the Ministry of Health has known for a long, long time of the inadequacy of the standard health insurance contract.

The Health Insurance Commission conducted a review of the Health Insurance Law and, according to statements made by Superintendent of Insurance Mervyn Conolly in November 2007, it was going to recommend raising the maximum benefit per episode of injury or illness.

Some 16 months have gone by since then with no action, so it appears the Ministry of Health sees no urgency in doing anything about the situation, possibly because this is a problem for expatriates and not Caymanians.

If Ms Romero had been Caymanian, the government would have guaranteed her medical bills, substandard medical insurance or not, and had her sent for the best medical treatment available, most likely in Miami. Since she was an expatriate with no means to guarantee her medical costs, Ms Romero instead was shipped off to Honduras – only after being refused by Jamaica and Cuba – where she ultimately ended up dying in a city hospital.

One of the reasons given by Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin for the need to retain government’s rights to discriminate against expatriates is because the government can’t afford to treat them on an equal basis when it comes to health care. If Cayman had a free-standing right against discrimination, the government would have had to guarantee Ms Romero’s medical expenses in Miami, just as it does for Caymanians.

Human life, it seems, has been reduced to a matter of money, and the government has no problems saying an expatriate’s life isn’t worth the added expense.

It is nothing short of astounding that a society that can care so much about the plight of Cuban refugees who are leaving their homeland to seek a better life, can turn such a blind eye to people who work and live among us who are in need of help simply to continue living. We should be ashamed.

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