Another four employers “who failed to provide sufficient evidence” of active insurance policies for employers were listed on the Bermuda Health Council (BHeC) website as of February 1st.
Responding to questions fielded by Bermuda Real in the lead up to the release of its annual report, the BHeC said “13 employers who failed to provide sufficient evidence of active policy” were named on what’s been dubbed the Name & Shame List “since the introduction of web publication”.
“At the time of this email [February 1, 2016] there are four listed employers,” said BHeC Compliance Officer Ian Cameron. “All investigated employers are listed upon confirmation from an insurer that the policy remains inactive. This list is maintained in real time with employer names immediately delisted upon confirmation from an insurer.”
At the end of the day he said public exposure “acts as a deterrent to employers”, and it’s also a “resource for employees to verify their level of coverage”. “Insurers have been more amenable to working with employers to develop payment options to maintain coverage.
“To date, legal action has been taken against three employers who received fines for noncompliance with the Health Insurance Act – Designer Flowers [now defunct], Correia Construction and PES Limited.
“The Health Council has provided evidenced support for three former employees who are seeking remedy in civil court for outstanding medical bills and unlawful deductions,” said Mr Cameron.
The BHeC would neither confirm or deny whether the three former employees worked for any of the employers taken to court, or how much money was involved as a result of their unpaid medical bills.
Said Mr Cameron: “The Health Council cannot speak or comment on individual cases in which court action is pending. This includes information about outstanding medical bills and unlawful deductions.”
As the BHeC forges ahead to eradicate noncompliance, he noted that the bulk of employers in question are small business owners struggling to meet legally required commitments.
“The majority of reported businesses without sufficient health insurance coverage are those with between four to eight employees, these tend to be smaller companies who are facing financial difficulty in the current economic climate,” he said. “The vast majority of employers are compliant with many settling their outstanding premiums within 30 days.
“Employees have become more comfortable seeking assistance from the Health Council to investigate their employers some employers have paid substantial amounts to settle their arrears.”
According to the annual report, more than 2,100 employees regained their health insurance coverage in 2015. And more than $700,000 was collected in health insurance premiums.
From January to December 2015 “there were an average of 253 reported employees without health insurance coverage per month”. That total was decreased to “an average of 77 uninsured employees per month” after Health Council investigations.
A “reported 78 inactive policies affecting 265 employees” were reduced to “16 inactive policies affecting 59 employees” in December last year.
That’s a significant improvement when compared to figures recorded during the same month in 2014 when 596 employees without active policies were reduced to 187 after enforcement.
“For the 2015 calendar year, there was a total of 1,016 reported inactive health policies affecting 3,039 employees. Following Health Council investigation, there were 229 confirmed inactive policies affecting 924 employees,” Mr Cameron said.
He attributed the decreases to “ongoing monitoring and enforcement efforts” and “publication of non-compliant employers” on the Health Council’s website as a deterrent.
Meanwhile, Bermuda Real has spoken with several employees who asked not to be named, who are listed as part-time, and work more hours than the total required for employers to avoid paying health benefits. They insisted their employers use what they termed a “loophole” to flout the law.
When put to the BHeC, Mr Cameron said: “We receive queries from employees about their health insurance coverage as a part-time employee; in most incidences the employers themselves are unsure of the allocated number of hours for an employee to meet the exclusion criteria for coverage.
“The Health Insurance (Exemptions) Amendment Act 2015 lists part-time workers as working less than 15 hours per week or casual workers who work for no more than two months in any given year.”
Asked whether the Health Council monitors the number of people without health insurance due to unemployment, he said: “Unfortunately we do not retain figures of unemployed persons without health insurance coverage.”
*For more information on the list of non-compliant employers visit the BHeC website. Anyone wishing to query listings may do so directly via telephone, email, the website, or in writing to: Sterling House, 16 Wesley Street, Hamilton HM 11. Phone: 292-6420 – Fax: 292-8067 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ceola Wilson