No deal has been reached on a proposal to make Cayman Islands civil servants pay for a portion of their healthcare premiums, despite claims by the previous government administration that such a move would be imperative in balancing upcoming budgets.
Former Finance Minister Marco Archer said six months before the May 2017 elections that the cost-sharing plan would have to be in place at the start of 2018 “whoever is in government” at the time. Mr. Archer lost his Legislative Assembly seat following the 2017 election and current Finance Minister Roy McTaggart made no mention of the proposal during his budget address to the assembly in October.
Meanwhile, government has planned for increases of nearly $10 million in health insurance premiums over the next two years, according to budget documents.
About $4.3 million of that will be paid this year, and another $5.6 million is due in 2019.
“This is reflecting year-to-year premium increases for civil servants – this cost is covered by government,” Accountant General Matthew Tibbetts said.
There were meetings early in 2017 on the subject, but the organization that represents government employees said this week that it is unaware of any changes to the current healthcare scheme. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who has overall responsibility for the civil service, said this week that he had no update to provide on the issue at the moment.
All civil servants are 100 percent covered at present by the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company for healthcare expenses without any deduction in their monthly pay. However, to obtain the free healthcare services, those workers are required to use publicly funded clinics and hospitals.
Any requirement that civil servants pay a portion of their own health premiums would essentially amount to a pay cut for government workers.
“The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association has heard nothing further regarding possible healthcare remuneration changes for our members,” said the association’s president, John Bothwell. “The association remains committed to working with the government, should they wish to consider changes to civil servants’ healthcare coverage, or other national health coverage changes, which could affect our members.”
Mr. Bothwell said the association was keen to avoid “retrograde” steps that could affect the health of thousands of Caymanians. Roughly 3,600 people work in the central government service – 75 percent of whom are Caymanians. Another 2,200 employees work in the public sector’s statutory authorities and government-owned companies.
CINICO covers more than 15,000 Cayman Islands residents, including all civil servants, civil service pensioners and their families. However, thousands of public sector employees, including many of those working in the government’s 19 statutory authorities and the seven government-owned companies, do not use CINICO coverage. In most cases, the authorities and companies will charge employees a percentage of monthly premiums and those workers will also have to co-pay for certain doctors visits.
Government healthcare managers have talked for years about getting those remaining authorities and companies to include their workers on CINICO’s plan as a way to share risk and, thereby, lower the monthly premiums the public sector pays.
However, CINICO chief executive Lonny Tibbetts said efforts to encourage this within the past year were rejected, with the public sector entities stating government premium rates were much higher than the ones they pay now to private sector insurers.