Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said last week there was “no support” for plans to require government workers to pay a portion of their healthcare premiums.

Mr. Manderson’s comments came in an administrative circular released to civil servants last week.

“Many of you have … shared anxieties about proposals for cost-sharing on healthcare,” Mr. Manderson’s email read, noting that any decision to charge for healthcare premiums would reduce workers’ take-home pay.

“While work needs to continue to identify proposals to tackle the very real concerns of a growing healthcare liability, I can now advise that there is currently no support for existing civil servants to contribute to their healthcare costs,” the deputy governor wrote.

The statement put paid to any notion that government would begin charging its workers for healthcare premiums by the start of 2018, as was envisioned by the former Progressives-led administration during 2015-2016.

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At present, all civil servants, their spouses, underage children and civil service retirees receive 100 percent free healthcare coverage, as long as they use the public hospital system. Government taxes and fees are used to fund tens of millions of dollars each year in healthcare payments on behalf of civil servants.

An employee survey completed last year by the civil service found that pay and benefits received the lowest scores among employees who rated various aspects of their jobs and working environment.

“Civil service pay has not kept pace with the changes in inflation and we have now fallen behind by about 10 years,” the deputy governor wrote in the administrative memo.

Mr. Manderson’s comments last week left open the possibility that new civil service hires may be required to pay a portion of their healthcare costs at some unspecified date.

Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson told Legislative Assembly members in February that the proposal was still under discussion.

“It is intended that cost-sharing would only apply to civil servants at a future hire date and, to the best of my knowledge, that hire date hasn’t been decided,” Mr. Jefferson said at the time.

He added that the government believed that the public recognized the serious issues faced in continuing to provide healthcare to a population that was living longer after retirement.

He said a review of healthcare liabilities completed in late 2017 had looked at how much the government expects to owe for health costs in the next 20 years, as well as how much taxpayers are funding public sector healthcare annually. The question now is, what to do about it, he said. The numbers can look scary, Mr. Jefferson told the legislators, but he said, at this stage, the issue is not a public “crisis.”

In 2014, the government estimated its present value healthcare liability for both current and retired civil servants would be $1.18 billion over the next 20 years.

By June 2016, those future liabilities were estimated to have increased to $1.4 billion and last year, to nearly $1.7 billion.

It is not all money that is due at once, Mr. Jefferson said. However, if the healthcare costs continued to grow as expected, they could end up “overwhelming the government’s budget,” he said.

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  1. Is this no support from the civil service, which is certainly understandable, or no support from the public?

    It would be absolutely wrong, in my opinion, to unilaterally change the terms under which existing civil servants are compensated.

    But can the country’s taxpayers afford this for new hires too?

  2. I believe that the population of the Islands are too small to afford to have Civil Servants and whole family health insurance pay by Government alone . If we look at say 2,500 Civil Servants × 4 in the family that equals 10,000 people that Government is paying for out of the population . The balance of the population paying is not enough people to support a good Health Care System that requires millions of dollars to operate for everyone .

    I work for a Company that has more employees than the whole population of the Cayman Islands , they provide Insurance for all employees , but employee has to pay a certain amount , and if you want to add family there’s two more options of policies you can sign up for and pay additionally , and the population here is huge compared to Cayman’s .

    I think that government needs to take a real serious look at all the free benefits that Government is handing out, and how they can put these benefits in Civil Servants work package . If they are going to have money for other projects for the benefits of all Citizens .

  3. Surprise, surprise, Mr Manderson has discovered there is no support for civil servants paying for their health care. Absolutely nothing is going to change as Government members and MLA’s enjoy the same benefits, not to mention subsidised pension payments . The only certain change will come in future years when every single taxpayer’s dollar will be consumed by public sector salaries and benefits. There will be nothing left to pay for new schools, new roads, garbage collection, Cayman Airways, the Turtle Farm and everything else the Government currently spends on public projects. I know that some of our leaders are godly men, so I suggest in lieu of any meaningful action which we certainly won’t get, they all start praying for a miracle.

  4. “An employee survey completed last year by the civil service found that pay and benefits received the lowest scores among employees who rated various aspects of their jobs and working environment.”

    If this is the source of the Deputy Governor’s belief there is no support for government employees to pay a portion of their health insurance, then I believe he is looking at the wrong statistics. Instead, I suggest he stand outside of Foster’s or Kirks or Cost-U-Less and take a poll of customers coming and going at those spots. I’m convinced he will get quite a different picture and quite a different set of statistics.

    Of course the thought of a 50-50 cost sharing or some such scheme would be frightening to anyone. But what about a gradual introduction over say the next 5 years or so. Start at 10-90 and increase to 50-50 introducing an ownership responsibility to workers. Anything “free” is work what you pay for it, so if workers pay a proportion, the understand the value!

  5. I think that this is another issue Mr Manderson and Government are failing to understand the consequences of.
    The population and Civil Servants are growing faster than a child grow , and no plans are made of how and when to do something about it.

    What is everyone going to do , if and when Government finds it’s self in financial trouble and can’t afford to keep the Healthcare System open for everyone .
    PEOPLE or GOVERNMENT better look at it now . And remember that anything and everything can happen.