Seniors Discuss Healthcare Costs With Minister

October 30, 2015

[Updated] Age Concern Bermuda hosted a follow-up session of its Annual General Meeting yesterday [Oct 29] to provide its members an opportunity to speak with the Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment Jeanne Atherden about the state of ageing and healthcare in Bermuda.

The meeting took place at the Evangelical Church Hall in Paget.

Mr. Erwin Adderley, Chairperson of Age Concern Bermuda, opened the meeting by encouraging Age Concern members to continue to speak out.

He stated, “There was a recent announcement that the economy is in a state of recovery which may or may not have positive effects for seniors.”

After receiving a cheering round of applause from the audience, he went on to say, “Typically, as an economy recovers, prices tend to rise causing further hardship on seniors who are on fixed incomes.”

He stressed the importance of conversations between policy makers and older persons so that there is a better understanding of the realities of living as an older adult in Bermuda.

AGM Part 2 TC

Age Concern member, Mr. Quinton Ming, presented the first question to Minister Atherden regarding the $54 increase that was now required of him to cover FutureCare costs, out of a total pension of $450.

Mr. Ming explained that his children were already helping him as much as they can, given he has no money left in his pension after health insurance payments. He stated that the situation is very stressful to many seniors in his position.

Mrs. Ruth Vallis, also an Age Concern member questioned why a fifteen minute visit to a specialist cost her $350, of which she had to pay $180, as a copay.

“How is a little old lady like myself, supposed to afford these costs even with Futurecare coverage? Is there anything that can be done about the costs of visiting a doctor?” asked Mrs. Vallis.

Mrs. Brenda White, a member of Age Concern’s Advocacy Committee, questioned whether Government would consider providing legislation to allow ageing parents to be covered by their adult children’s insurance.

She commented, “Our children were dependent on us once, for some of us, it is now our turn. What can the current Government do to implement legislation that allows the ageing parents to be insured by their working, adult children?”

Member Joe Madeiros questioned whether there were any differences between HIP and FutureCare coverage citing that one of his friends were told that for certain procedures HIP provides better coverage.

According to the Ministry of Health, Ms. Diana Liacos, Case Manager of the Bermuda Government, Health Insurance Department, interpretation of Mr. Maderios’ question was that he was enquiring about the eligibility criteria for the HIP and FutureCare plans as he was stating that his friend was told she was not eligible because she had only lived in Bermuda for 9 and ½ years.

The Ministry of Health said that Ms. Liacos response was that, “To enroll in either plan one had to be a resident in Bermuda, and FutureCare requires one to be over 65-years of age. There are no other requirements. The timeframe that he referred to was related to the age subsidy and certificate of entitlement which requires one to live in Bermuda for 10 of the last 20 years. Having the certificate of entitlement reduces the premium payments for either plan.”

Overall, Minister Atherden responded to the Age Concern membership by reassuring them that she is listening to their concerns.

She said, “I want everyone here to know that I am listening and am taking note of your concerns. I do understand because I am a senior too.

“I understand for some people that $54 is a lot of money, and that is why we asked people who are having difficulty to avail themselves to the Department of Financial Assistance.

“I understand that for some this may be something that is difficult to do, but there is little that I can do right now to change the cost of coverage.

“I want to feel optimistic because the recent National Health Accounts reported that health costs went down, which provides some green shoots indicating that we may be getting a hold on how much healthcare we use.”

Chart, provided by the Ministry earlier this year, showing the changes to insurance premiums:

screencapture health prem aug 2015

 

In response to the issue of expensive copays, Minister Atherden explained that there is a schedule of payments for each procedure covered under health insurance plans and doctors who operate in the private sector set their own pricing.

Mr. Charles Jeffers, Age Concern Advocacy, Chairperson then questioned whether restricting pricing to the legislated payment schedule for seniors would help to ease the financial burden of seniors faced with copayments.

Minister Atherden fielded and answered questions for over an hour and indicated that she would be back in the future to keep the communications lines open between the Age Concern membership and the Ministry of Health.

In reflecting on the session, Mrs. Claudette Fleming the Executive Director of Age Concern indicated, “We are very pleased that the Minister and her staff took the time to come back to listen to our members.

“The discussion did not evolve into a griping session but rather a constructive dialogue where members clearly and strongly articulated their needs, circumstances and expectations.

“We remain deeply concerned for those persons whose health insurance premiums exceed their pensions. One of our members who spoke of the frustration and humiliation of not being able to make insurance payments became overwhelmed with emotion and left the meeting.

“While others indicated that due to the rise in health insurance premiums they cannot afford to be insured. This is deeply troubling to us at Age Concern, we want to help these people right now and we will continue to engage the Ministry and the Government until something is done for them.

“Overall though I think our members got to see a softer more empathetic side of the Minister this time around and I believe that she heard what they said and will do something about their concerns.

“We look forward to finding out exactly what will be done about expensive insurance premium costs, in particular.”

Update: The above article has been amended, as the information obtained from Age Concern conflicts with what the Ministry said, with the Ministry stating that the Minister was misquoted as she did not say: “We may be in a better position to review premiums in April 2016, now that the economy is showing signs of turning around.”

According to the Ministry, the Minister did say: “I want to feel optimistic because the recent National Health Accounts reported that health costs went down, which provides some green shoots indicating that we may be getting a hold on how much healthcare we use.”

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Comments (12)

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  1. watching says:

    The Minister of Finance has said that “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Seniors advocate Louise Jackson would be mortified at the treatment of seniors by this government. It saddens me that her daughter hasn’t taken the mantle of Seniors Advocate. Some seniors are barely surviving, yet this government continues to raise health premiums and their only suggestion is to tell the seniors to come to financial assistance if they need it. This is horrible for a government that finds millions for other projects yet we cannot take care of those that have taken care of us. Ministers Richards, and Atherden should be ashamed of themselves. The way a society treats its most vulnerable (especially their seniors) speaks volumes.

    • Politricks says:

      So what are your suggestions to combat the rising price of health costs on this island?

      All I have seen is vehement opposition by you and yours against any proposed cost cutting measure. This is the end result, unfortunately for you.

      What area would you cut to pay for all this?

      And don’t go on about spending on areas that is directed at boosting our fledgling economy. The Govt. hasn’t taken money from this area to support these projects. Every budget of every Ministry has been cut. Except civil service wages of course.

      Just remember the vast majority of Govt. expenses is on basic operating costs (i.e. wages and benefits). More than 50% actually.

      I imagine, as I have read it from you before, that you are remain against cutting civil service wages.

      If you are not willing to reduce the largest area of expenditure (wages and benefits) than then the next step is raising taxes (already done) and cutting the smaller areas of the budget (with this being the end result).

      So I ask what areas of Govt. expenditure would you reduce further or do you simply believe we should continue on with massive deficit spending and eventual default?

      • watching says:

        I am not sure where you have read that, but I have no issue with freezing or even cutting some CS salaries within reason. I would possibly even cut Ministerial salaries and CS salaries over a certain threshold.
        But this government, under these Ministers are hell bent on certain segments of society having to do the sacrificing. what about restructuring the taxation system? there are options that the government have rather than forcing senior citizens to choose between medication and food? I hope you are not a senior and that when you do get there you are faced with the same choices and are told that money doesn’t grow on trees.

        • Politricks says:

          Companies set up here because of the taxation system. Not because of the pink sand or our so called’ friendly attitudes.’ So go ahead and ‘restructure’ the taxation system. Then you can complain about businesses leaving and unemployment rising.

          I’m not a senior, but my pay cheque has been hit by the rises in payroll tax and health insurance premiums (thanks to the PLP’s overpriced hospital wing). That’s on top of no cost of living wage for going on 5 years. So yes, my family and I feel the squeeze.

          The hotel sector has seen the PLP enacted tax holiday rescinded while businesses have also been hit with a tax rise.

          So to claim only certain segments have been affected is complete and utter nonsense and just political garbage. Each and every employed person has been hit by these rises. Which I might say are now more necessary than ever as the biggest govt expense is apparently untouchable. Imagine what the furlough day savings could have been used for?

          I have read all your opposition remarks regarding the numerous attempts by this Govt. to enact cost saving measures (read BDA saving measures). Anything they have proposed you and yours have shot it down and spew hyperbolic rhetoric (i.e. anti-Bermudian, against one sector, blah blah blah)

          You still have not come up with one realistic idea to close the $200mn hole in our budget finances. And let me remind you when the OBA came to power they had to close a $400mn deficit that your PLP left in their last budget. But of course you won’t blame them for the need to cut back now will you?

          Do you think that having civil service wages exceeding 50% of total expenditure as being sustainable for our national finances.

      • Terry says:

        Your dammed if and when you do and dammed if you don’t.
        Times are hard for all.
        Shalom.

      • frank says:

        sell of gp1 and cut cars for the ministers and ps’s
        no gp cars being used for private us on weekends
        use prisoners to cut tress and mow grass
        all no Bermudian prisoners send them back home

  2. Wow says:

    Seniors should be relaxing, enjoying retirement…not worrying about should they pay the bills or buy medication. And in some cases, seniors cannot lean on their kids because they’re probably struggling themselves. I implore for both sides of the Government to come together and TRY to figure a way to ease this burden on seniors. They have earned their right to live out the rest of their lives worry free. I have already determined that I will not financially be able to retire in Bermuda (my home). Luckily for me I have other options, but for those who don’t…sad.

  3. Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

    I really can’t get it into my head why so many blame the govt. who always gets blamed for this health care system which is structured by the AMA along with its sibling the INSURANCE industry…We and the rest of the world HAVE to abide however THEY dictate…YOU need to attack Big Pharma. Let’s see how far you get with that one…so you will b!t@# and moan to or about Dunkley…O.B.A…P.L.P. OR U.N.I. can’t do anything about the costs so instead of you complaining about a dog barking GO outside and find out why and until you do so,you will remain an unenlightened individual comparable to the barking dog which you claim is barking for nothing.

    The moral of the story is…don’t wait to be told what’s happening, go out and learn the truth…If you can handle the truth.

  4. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    A WAKE UP CALL, an unqualified opinion.

    Key word VEGETARIAN.

    We all live in a very affluent society not many here go to bed hungry these days.

    Do you want to save $200.00 on your food bill then shop healthy buy fruit vegetables nuts and fish,and don’t forget the seasoning and spices for the steamed vegetables.

    Health is a big issue these days, we have a new fantastic hospital with incredible staff all there for sole purpose of taking care of the heart patients and many other afflictions.

    It is all about your choice to be fat or obese,for this you can not blame others because it is your responsibility only, with a “live for today” mentality, consuming all those comfort foods while sitting on the couch watching T.V. in my day we did not have T.V. we had a pedal bike.

    ” Got ya”.

    You want long life, don’t we all, well ! you got to keep moving and eat the right things .

    Did you know that when you feel hungry, you, are most likely to be thirsty,most of us do not drink enough water, many of us take better care of their cars.

    There are many books on the subject regarding diet just choose your plan , A or B , but first consult your doctor for professional advice as we are not all the same , do something ! and be in control, ask questions.

    I will be 80 soon and i feel just fine and fitter than a 30 year old because age is just a number on my driving license and I still cut my own lawn.

    I have done more with my life than 50 other people.

    May be I should thank my father who would often say

    “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT” and “YOU GO TO BED TO DIE”

    or was it rationing during WW 11, back then,I would cut the fat away from a lamb chop or was it when killer items such as sugar; butter; milk and eggs bread and salt; were in short supply,or could it be your metabolism, well it is all those things , the secret is knowing what to eat and what is good for you.

    By the way i don’t see many of you out walking every day, its called exercise people.

    I guess by now you want to know my secret to health and longevity well my friends as some will say I am not qualified to tell you, sorry to say , I know what works for me, I do not know what works for you.

    Go on “youtube FOOD THAT KILLS” where a doctor will tell you what you need to know.

    • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

      You’re fighting a loosing battle trying to inform these conformists of what the Real truth is…its like religion…They won’t accept the truth…as main stream media programs your mind and their cohorts pacify you in times of despair with their sister pharmaceutical companies,..We are in very bleak times…Unfortunately evil has triumphed over good…

  5. Legal Eagle says:

    Politians cater to whatever ‘group’ they need to get+remain elected!That’s why the OBA courted to the CS block of votes to get elected-+will continue to do so–even though SAGE has established the cost of the CS is unsustainable! The OBA will continue to appease the CS voting block until they fear a Seniors voting block! Without one, Seniors are simply an easier target than the CS!