Editorial for August 24: Enforcement is the key

If the Health Insurance (Amendment)
Bill 2010 is passed, it would not only allow the superintendent of health
insurance to issue direct fines on Cayman Islands employers who do not provide
their employees with proper health insurance, but it would also significantly
increase the fines for many offenses of the law.

It has taken years for the
government to act on recommendations of the Health Insurance Commission to give
the Health Insurance Law more teeth. 

Despite many cases of employers not
properly insuring their employees – sometimes even after deducting health
insurance premiums from their pay – very little was done to correct the
situation.  Prosecutions of offenders are
long and difficult and the low amounts of the possible fines make it hardly
worth the trouble.  Indeed, for some
unscrupulous employers, there’s more to be gained by not paying health
insurance premiums on their employees and then paying whatever fine that might
be levied against them.

Certainly the amendment to the
Health Insurance Law, if passed, will change that. It will be easier to fine
offenders and some of the fine amounts are now significant.

The changes will come as welcome
news to law-abiding employers who have long-complained about the competitive unfairness
of non-enforcement of the law. Employers who don’t have the overhead costs of
paying health insurance because they choose to break the law can often undercut
law-abiding employers when bidding for jobs or pricing their goods or services.

The amendment to the law will also
be welcomed by employees, some of whom only find out they didn’t have health
insurance when they have a need to use it. This kind of worker exploitation is
something the government should try and stop and this law is intended to do
just that.

Of course, just having a law with
more teeth in place doesn’t mean the law will be enforced.  There are many laws in the books here that
are not enforced, or are only enforced selectively.  Unless the superintendent of health insurance
is consistent with enforcement, and given the resources to do that, the changes
to the law will have little impact.

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