The government has approved an additional $5 million for overseas medical care of Cayman’s indigents, seafarers and veterans.
The original amount the Cayman Islands government budgeted for overseas health care was $8.2 million, while the revised amount – approved by the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last week – is $13.2 million.
Health Minister Mark Scotland said the increased funding was needed due to an increase in the number of seafarers whose health care is covered by the government through the CINICO insurance company. It was also partly because of three catastrophic care cases that cost $3.8 million.
The government covers health care costs of 1,333 seafarers and veterans, whose average age is 71, as well as more than 1,200 indigents, whose average age is 59. Mr. Scotland said an additional 123 seafarers had signed on to be covered by CINICO since the end of 2009.
Mr. Scotland said the advancing ages of those populations meant they were “more prone to chronic diseases and catastrophic illnesses”.
The number of seafarers seeking coverage through CINICO had increased, Mr. Scotland said, as former seafarers reached retirement age of 60 and joined CINICO.
Quizzed by North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller on whether the reason more aging seafarers were joining CINICO was because private insurers were refusing to insure them past the age of 60, Mr. Scotland said amendments to the Insurance Law, passed in 2010, and its related regulations which were being worked on, would mean that insurance companies could no longer do that.
However, Mr. Scotland said it was more likely that seafarers were choosing to move to CINICO because its premiums were “practically free” to them.
The health minister told an “extensive review” of Cayman’s health care system was under way to explore strategic ways of reducing costs, including looking at other destinations outside South Florida, where the majority of Cayman’s overseas patients are now treated, to find more reasonably priced but high quality care.
This article has been corrected to update figures for health care coverage for seafarers and veterans.