MPs Pass Bill To Name Delinquent Employers

June 2, 2015

The Health Insurance Amendment Act 2015 — which allows for the publication of names of employers who fail to provide health insurance coverage for their employees — passed in the House of Assembly, with MPs from both sides of the aisle supporting the measure.

Speaking in the House, Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment Jeanne Atherden said, ”In 2014’s Speech from the Throne, this Government promised to amend this Act to give the Bermuda Health Council the authority to publish the names of employers who fail to provide health insurance coverage for their employees”, adding that “this Bill delivers on that promise.”

“The Bermuda Health Council is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Health Insurance Act 1970 and receives monthly data from insurers on inactive health insurance policies for which claims are not being paid.

“In the ordinary course, a policy is made inactive when the premium is in arrears. In fiscal year 2014/15, between 234 and 631 employees were reported monthly to be without active health insurance. Presently, the Health Council does follow-up with all employers with inactive policies, reducing inactive policies by 50% on average.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, most employers fail to inform their employees when their policy is inactive. Often, it is only when seeking some kind of medical service that employees discover their lack of coverage.

“It is important to note that section 24A[3] of the Health Insurance Act 1970 makes it an offence for an employer who fails to inform his employee, in writing, of his failure to enact a contract of health insurance.

“Therefore, these offences can be prosecuted, but as Honourable Members will know, this is a costly and time-consuming process which does not achieve the aim of the principal Act which is to ensure that employees are insured.

“This does not mean an end to any remedy via the criminal law, but the reality of life is that the publication proposed by this Bill will alert employees sooner where there is an issue and very likely cause delinquent employers to prioritize this responsibility.

“The Bill before the House provides for the Bermuda Health Council to publish a statement to the effect that it considers, or a licensed insurer has reported, that an employer has failed or neglected to effect or continue in force a contract of health insurance as required under the Health Insurance Act 1970.

“Working men and women need to be protected and employers must recognize the importance of maintaining this coverage for their employees. Our system of healthcare depends on each agency or entity doing its part under the law.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, the Bill before this Honourable House is the Health Insurance Amendment Act 2015.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will recall that in 2014’s Speech from the Throne, this Government promised to amend this Act to give the Bermuda Health Council the authority to publish the names of employers who fail to provide health insurance coverage for their employees.

Mr. Speaker, that Speech indicated as follows:

“There is a legal requirement for employers to provide their employees and their employees’ unemployed spouses with health insurance. In difficult economic times employers may be tempted to cut corners, but it is critical that employees be protected to ensure they have current health insurance.”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that this Bill delivers on that promise.

Mr. Speaker, The Bermuda Health Council is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Health Insurance Act 1970 and receives monthly data from insurers on inactive health insurance policies for which claims are not being paid. In the ordinary course, a policy is made inactive when the premium is in arrears. In fiscal year 2014/15, between 234 and 631 employees were reported monthly to be without active health insurance. Presently, the Health Council does follow-up with all employers with inactive policies, reducing inactive policies by 50% on average.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, most employers fail to inform their employees when their policy is inactive. Often, it is only when seeking some kind of medical service that employees discover their lack of coverage.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that section 24A[3] of the Health Insurance Act 1970 makes it an offence for an employer who fails to inform his employee, in writing, of his failure to enact a contract of health insurance. Therefore, these offences can be prosecuted, but as Honourable Members will know, this is a costly and time-consuming process which does not achieve the aim of the principal Act which is to ensure that employees are insured. This does not mean an end to any remedy via the criminal law, but the reality of life is that the publication proposed by this Bill will alert employees sooner where there is an issue and very likely cause delinquent employers to prioritize this responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill before the House provides for the Bermuda Health Council to publish a statement to the effect that it considers, or a licensed insurer has reported, that an employer has failed or neglected to effect or continue in force a contract of health insurance as required under the Health Insurance Act 1970.

Mr. Speaker, working men and women need to be protected and employers must recognize the importance of maintaining this coverage for their employees. Our system of healthcare depends on each agency or entity doing its part under the law.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to deliver on one of this Government’s promises and commend this Bill to the House for the support of Honourable Members.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Clause By Clause Analysis Of The Bill

Clause 1

This is the standard citation clause and cites the Bill as the Health Insurance Amendment Act 2015.

Clause 2

This clause amends section 25 of the principal Act by inserting a new subsection [4A] and [4B]. Subsection [4A] provides for the Bermuda Health Council to publish a statement to the effect that it considers, or a licensed insurer has reported, that an employer has failed or neglected to effect or continue in force a contract of health insurance as required by section 20[1] of the Health Insurance Act 1970.

Under subsection [4B], the Council is not liable for any loss resulting from a publication under subsection [4A], provided the Council has acted in good faith.

CLAUSE 3

This clause makes a consequential amendment to section 18 [confidentiality] of the Bermuda Health Council Act 2004 to clarify that the provisions of that section do not apply to the publication of a statement by the Bermuda Health Council under section 25[4A] of the Health Insurance Act 1970.

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The Health Insurance Amendment Act 2015 follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (43)

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  1. Jus' Askin' says:

    Unemployment will Go Up because of this :-(
    Businesses are hurting and insurance premiums continue to rise.
    Businesses will either close, let staff go or go up on their prices.
    I feel this is the wrong way to go about this!!!

    • Bullseye says:

      Businesses are hurting. Employees should not suffer for it. It also effects the competitive landscape if one company is on top of it’s coverages, whereas the other neglects coverage and offers a slightly cheaper price. Who wins in that scenario?

      • Jus' Askin' says:

        The consumer wins in that scenario ;-)

        • inna says:

          And that is why you support the PLP, and clearly have no understanding of how businesses really work.

          Hows your clerk job around Registrar treating you?

          • Jus' Askin' says:

            I don’t support PLP. If I did support them, they would still be in government ;-)
            I didn’t get the clerk job :-D
            The only thing this does is guarantee profits for insurance companies ;-)

            • serengeti says:

              So who are you trying to protect? Which employer’s name do you not want disclosed?

              • Catch A Fire says:

                Serengeti…I wonder what company Juskin Askin owns.

                Clearly he/she obviously has never had a family member or friend flown overseas for an emergency surgery only to learn that they had no insurance because their employer didn’t pay it!

                And when you have no insurance in a US hospital you learn quickly that your health isn’t their first concern, it’s second after “and how will you be paying for that test”.!

        • Well... says:

          Go work for an employer that doesn’t pay your insurance and see how you feel…. The employer is stealing plain and simple!!!

    • about time says:

      This happened to my family’s policy. We paid our share but the employer never paid the insurance company. How can this be the wrong way to go about this. Our claims started being denied and we then learned the insurance was in arrears. Employees deserve to know that they are receiving the benefits they pay for and are entitled to by law!

      • Jus' Askin' says:

        It will have a negative impact on the businesses.
        The insurance company should let You know the minute the arrears start or payments stop.

        • Catch A Fire says:

          So you want the insurance companies to hire people to call people every month to do something that any ethical employee knows they must do by law! You would be the first person to complain that your rates have gone up.

      • jt says:

        Curious to know what legal recourse was available….could the employer be sued for unpaid premium amounts and for associated medical costs?

        • Do the Math says:

          It is my understanding that an employee can sue the employer for the total amount of the coverage supplied under the policy irrespective of the size of the claim.

          • serengeti says:

            Well, that is not true. The employee may be able to sue for the value of what the insurance would have paid, possibly. That assumes the employee has the time and finances to hire lawyers and go to court, and also assumes the employer has the funds to pay the amount awarded.

            Much simpler to force the employer to do what it is supposed to do, i.e. buy health insurance. This measure helps that.

    • serengeti says:

      So you would rather have an employer steal from employees and leave them with no health insurance.
      Typical champagne socialist.

      • Jus' Askin' says:

        That is not what I am saying.Those employers need to be brought before the courts. If the employee stole from them it would make it to court. Empower the employee and back them against these types of employers.

        Putting a business on blast will not make things better for the employer or employee. May cause more problems than it may solve.

        Embarrassing someone, so they do better, is Not Wise :-(

        • serengeti says:

          Who are you trying to protect? Why are you suddenly concerned about the possible ‘embarrassment’ of certain employers who have been stealing from their employees?

        • jt says:

          You get your name in the news for stealing a loaf of bread from the grocery store.
          Why on earth should this be any different?

        • Xaxa says:

          Let’s not forget that the “embarassment” stems from someone STEALING from their employees and breaking the law.

      • hmmm says:

        Shows how different from ideology spouted, the PLP actually are.

    • Sara says:

      If a company can’t afford to pay health insurance because they are hurting then why continue to take it out of their paycheck as has happened in several instances? Their is NO EXCUSE for stealing from your employees!!!

  2. San George says:

    The fraud occurs when the employer is taking deductions and not passing them on for insurance coverage.
    Businesses are struggling – this is not a solution.

    Quo Fata Ferunt

    • serengeti says:

      It protects employees from dishonest employers who are failing to keep them insured.

      Who are you trying to protect, exactly?

  3. Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

    Applauds both sides for this.

  4. aceboy says:

    Yes businesses are struggling, but they cannot take in funds from employees and treat it as revenue when BY LAW they are supposed to be paying for health insurance.

    What IS the right way to go about this?

    • Terry says:

      “Yes businesses are struggling”.

      Damn.

      So are the employees who put ‘bread’ in their pockets and big boats and house.

      Take their to court.

      Slave days are long gone; so I have read and heard here.

      Shalom.

    • Jus' Askin' says:

      Another way would be for the insurance companies and/or the Bermuda Health Council informing the employees of lack of or stoppage of payment by the employers.

      • Sara says:

        The contract for insurance is between the employer and the insurance provider so that won’t work.

  5. Hmmmm says:

    If a business is only able to survive by not paying its proper share of amounts due to or for employees its not a functioning business. Where has this idea that all businesses deserve to survive come from? If you can’t make enough money to meet your obligations your business doesn’t deserve to survive. Move over and let a better one take your place.

    • Jus' Askin' says:

      Charles Darwin is that You? :-D

    • Sara says:

      I agree with this.

    • Seriously says:

      AMEN to that!!!!

      Come correct or go lay down and yes those in default should be named to protect the employees that may be considering taking a job with a firm that takes their insurance contributions and doesnt pay what they are leaglly bound to pay! NO mercy!

  6. Island Princess says:

    If this New Bill refers to FULL TIME employees having coverage, than I support it 100% HOWEVER, exceptions need to be made for casual/on-call workers who may amass numerous hours. It would be impossible for an employer to insure them as one month they may work seven hours and another month it may be forty hours and most insurance companies do not cover people on one month intervals (one month and one month off).
    Due consideration would have to be made to the employers as well if not businesses will most definitely fail and there will be a large volume of people unemployed. The powers that be are not looking at the operating cost of the business, taxes, and premium cost as a whole, these are all variables which need be considered before taking a punitive approach.

  7. Ann says:

    About time! I hope a bill is passed soon for delinguient employers not paying payroll tax and Social insurance.

  8. Triangle Drifter says:

    IMO nobody wins. If a business is struggling & not paying its bills, including insurance, it is doomed to fail. When it goes bankrupt everyone loses. The employer is broke. The employee loses employment. If there are outstanding debts when the business goes broke, including the health insurance, nobody gets paid.

    Money is not falling from the sky to pay the debts.

    • Terry says:

      Between 200+ -600+ employers are not paying Triangle.

      Now present the stats on those amount of businesses going out of business.

      Your wrong.

    • Kangoocar says:

      @triangle, I nearly 100% of the time agree with all you say but this time even though I see your point, have to dissagree!! When I started my business and when it grew to were I needed employees, I knew the law is the law and I had to pay health insurance 50/50 with employee, also payroll tax and social insurance!!! I can tell you I pay on time everytime, and so should any other employer that operates a biz!! I actually don’t think it is fair that I pay and some don’t??? I truly think naming and shaming is the way to go, and that goes for payroll tax and social insurance as well!!!

  9. Alvin Williams says:

    If this country is prepared to lock up people for debt; it is only fair that businesses who steal medical benefits from their employees should be reveal and brought to book before the courts.

    • Kangoocar says:

      Totally agree Alvin, but when the names are actually revealed please don’t blame whitey!!!!!

      • Sara says:

        I can’t wait to see who it is! I will never do business with the crooks again!

  10. Tom Cooke says:

    Sorry…have not read all comments. .. I worked for a local construction company…they took payroll tax and pension for a year..AND DID NOT PAY.. that is theft…. if you can’t pay….go out of bissness. .

    • Sara says:

      If you must steal from your employees to pay your bills then you need to close your doors!

  11. Legal Eagle says:

    I just don’t understand why the Govt just isn’t prosecuting in the first place!! An employer deducting $$ from an employee-then converting it to their own use is CRIMINAL THEFT! The DPP doesn’t find it “too costly+time consuming” to prosecute desparate mothers who shoplift to to feed their children-so how is this different?? If a CIVIL Debt-it’s also not “too costly +time consuming” to bring financially struggling single mothers to court either Again, what’s the difference?? Something’s very wrong here!!