No one should be surprised, but the Ministry of Health has decided to defer the problem concerning the inadequacies of the Standard Health Insurance Contract 1.
This health insurance policy, which is in place for the majority of Cayman’s low-income earners, is woefully inadequate to deal with catastrophic illness or injury.
Although Minister of Health Anthony Eden did not actually acknowledge that he believes SHIC 1 to be inadequate, he admitted there was a general consensus that the level of healthcare benefits offered by the policy was not in line with today’s healthcare costs. He also admitted the Health Insurance Commission had recommended an increase in benefits.
Instead of heeding the recommendation, or acting as a result of several instances where people have either died or been at risk of death because of the SHIC 1 inadequacies, Mr. Eden warned that the changing the policy would lead to higher costs for employers and employees.
It is not surprising that a politician does not want to raise costs to employers and employees in the run-up to an election. But this is a matter of life and death for some people. Ultimately, if raising costs a little helps save lives, the government should have the courage to do what is right and not worry about losing some votes.
In addition, a report commissioned prior to Mr. Eden taking over the responsibility for the Ministry of Health stated the cost of raising the maximum benefits of SHIC 1 would not necessarily mean an increase in premiums. Those maximum benefits could also increase by raising the deductible.
However, Mr. Eden said SHIC 1 was never intended to cover catastrophic overseas medical costs; only on-island costs.
Of course, Caymanians need not worry about the inadequacies of SHIC 1 because the government guarantees their emergency overseas medical care.
The problem is that if an expatriate with SHIC 1 suffers from a serious injury or condition that cannot be dealt with by the hospital here, there is a good chance that person will die. As we learned in the case of Carol Romero, a young Filipino women that sustained a serious head injury, SHIC 1 doesn’t get a person in need of emergency overseas medical care to Miami, and even in Honduras it will only cover the cost of a private hospital for several weeks.
Most expatriates, we believe, would rather have the provisions for catastrophic injury or illness covered than to have a lower deductible. Most people think life is more important than having, for example, the majority of healthcare cost of a broken arm covered by insurance.
But until any Cayman government has the courage to do what is right for expatriates, maybe it should at least be honest with them. Maybe every work permit application should contain a statement that warns all expatriate workers that if their employer only provides SHIC 1 and they suffer a serious accident or illness, they face a much higher risk of death, possibly in a city hospital in Honduras.