Government removes 114 from seamen/veterans health coverage

Education Minister Tara Rivers objects to Wednesday's emergency meeting of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly due to non-attendance of government members. - Photo: Brent Fuller

The Cayman Islands government took 114 people out of the healthcare coverage plan for retired veterans and seamen during the last budget year.

Finance Minister Marco Archer told the Legislative Assembly on Monday that 22 of those beneficiaries had died. Another 92 were either not members of the veterans or seamen associations, or were living outside the Cayman Islands.

Residency and membership requirements must both be met to receive the healthcare coverage benefits, Mr. Archer said.

Before the removals, more than 1,200 people were listed on the seamen and veterans benefits plan, which pays a monthly stipend as well as health insurance.

The move saved the government more than $818,000 in last year’s budget, according to figures made public Friday. It was done without “delaying those members who are eligible to receive the benefit from receiving the benefit,” Mr. Archer said. The funds were directed to other areas of the government budget.

The costs of providing healthcare coverage to the group of aging seamen and servicemen has been a subject of some debate over the past year.

The government has budgeted more than $13 million a year to cover 1,075 retired seamen, former veterans and their widows, according to records reviewed for the current 18-month budget cycle.

Government-paid premiums for the group cost $577 per member, per month. These payments bring the average annual cost of the premiums to just under $7.5 million. In the event that a retired seaman or former serviceman requires healthcare overseas, government has a separate fund to pay for that. Budget estimates show Cayman plans to spend more than $17 million during the upcoming 18-month budget on those types of healthcare expenditures for seamen, veterans and Caymanians who have no healthcare coverage.

The 12-month budgeted amount for the expenditure in the 2016/17 spending plan is $11.4 million. About 55 percent of that ($6.3 million) is earmarked for tertiary healthcare coverage for seamen and veterans, according to government financial estimates.

Combining the $7.5 million for standard healthcare coverage with the $6.3 million spent on overseas (tertiary) healthcare coverage, government is expected to spend $13.8 million in 12 months for seamen and veterans health needs.

The vast majority of those receiving that healthcare coverage are seamen; fewer than two dozen veterans are receiving those benefits.

In addition to the healthcare coverage, seamen and veterans receive a government monthly stipend of $550 to cover living expenses.

According to budget records, more than $20 million a year is spent on healthcare and monthly stipends paid to retired seamen, veterans and their dependents.

Mr. Archer said the government began a review during the last budget year after a report from the auditor general’s office that sought to determine which active members of the veterans and seamen’s associations remained. The exercise led to the removal of the 114 names from the lists.

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  1. I support Mr Marco Archer’s movement on this. It really had needed to be investigated and updated under the circumstances that persons who should not have been, and were not eligible were receiving these funds. It is time that we have representatives looking into the interest of Caymanians who started the corner stone of building the Cayman Islands.

  2. Why was Government paying benefits to men who were not retired seamen or veterans?. As far as health benefits for Caymanians with no health coverage are concerned, I would be interested to know how much Govt receives from the taxpayer (excluding civil servants who dont pay anything for themselves or anyone else), in the form of levies charged on their own health insurance premiums for the benefit of indigents.