Gov’t considering extension of health insurance payment scheme

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour says government is considering extending its health insurance premium payment assistance programme. Photo: GIS

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said government is considering an extension of its health insurance payment assistance programme.

Seymour, in response to media questions on Friday, said the programme was initially listed for April, May and June to assist furloughed employees. Through the programme, health insurance premiums for approved employees is being paid by government to ensure they are covered during the COVID-19 health crisis.

He said government is not only looking at extending the initiative, but also a change in its application.

“We are having discussions on should we go ahead in this same fashion. As we saw we had some hiccups with the way that we had approached it in this three months’ segment. So caucus is discussing how we move forward, still recognising that we have this problem out there and that persons are still unemployed. The last thing that the government wants is for persons to be uncovered during a pandemic,” Seymour said.

According to media reports, some applicants under the programme said their insurance premiums had not been paid and they had been slapped with invoices for medical bills.

Seymour, speaking at the COVID-19 press briefing, acknowledged there were some issues with the programme, saying that one company had defaulted on its agreement with the government.

However, he said the ministry is now in receipt of invoices for the April and May premiums from the approved insurers under the programme and these are currently being processed.

“The June numbers should be finalised shortly as the deadline for applications was 15 July.  Once these are finalised, payments will follow. There appears to have been some confusion surrounding the submission of invoices but I would like to assure the public the ministry’s requirements in this regard are to ensure proper and transparent handling of public funds,” he said.

Seymour urged applicants who had experienced issues or have pending hospital bills with the Health Services Authority to email the Health Insurance Commission at [email protected]

He said those reports will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“During such an unprecedented time, it is fair to expect some glitches on both sides and for those on our part we apologise. However, I can promise that the hard work and dedication to fulfill this promise has remained a priority for the ministry and the HIC,” the Minister said in his address at the briefing.

According to a press release last week, the Health Insurance Commission approved 235 applications under the programme.

In April, 100 applications were received and 77 were approved, amounting to a total payment of $84,492. This covered 559 employees and dependents. In May, 186 applications were received, of which 148 were approved for payment of $128,212 – covering 809 employees and dependents.

Seymour says work continuing to control mosquito problem

The Health Minister has said progress is being made to deal with the onslaught of mosquitoes which has increased due to recent rainfall and flooding.

Seymour said on Friday that the Mosquito Research and Control Unit’s two planes were active all week, spraying flooded areas containing mosquito larvae, as well as spraying at night.

“Likewise, all of MRCU’s Disease Prevention Officers have been actively treating smaller bodies of standing water throughout the island’s neighbourhoods. The DPOs, have been out with the fogging trucks nightly to fill in areas not treated aerially and in response to any service requests,” he said.

An additional truck, he said, was deployed Friday night in the area from Rum Point to Hutland in response to a request.

The minister said the trap counts indicate spraying has been effective in reducing the biting mosquito populations.

“I am pleased that requests for service are also trending down, so this is good news to the success of their hard work. MRCU does recognise however that there are still pockets of annoying mosquitoes and they will continue their spray efforts until these are eliminated,” he added.

MRCU, he said, has been active on both of the Sister Islands.

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