The country’s elderly population has been dealt a stinging blow by Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) which is cancelling a Golden Health Insurance Plan with the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP).
BARP President Edward Bushell told Barbados TODAY ICBL had decided to discontinue the plan when it comes up for renewal in August.
Bushell said the health scheme, which covered over 2,000 BARP members over the past eight years, had become unsustainable because ICBL was paying out more in claims than it was collecting in premiums.
The non-profit organization of people over the age of 50 has since sent out a notice to members inviting them to a meeting on Friday, March 11, to discuss their concerns and have their questions answered.
However, in an email to Barbados TODAY, one concerned member described the move as “draconian” and “unethical”.
“Probably with your coverage we can get ICBL management to reconsider their harsh and perhaps unethical decision,” said the concerned member.
The person explained that the insurance company raised premiums for dental coverage by 38 per cent last year, while coverage for vision increased by 12 per cent.
When contacted, ICBL declined to comment on the development.
However, Bushell explained that the cost of the plan “is way above what it should be”.
The BARP head refused to disclose the amount of the premium, nor could he say the number of claims made each month or how much ICBL paid in claims. However, Bushell said claims amounted to “millions” of dollars each year.
“I personally don’t think ICBL had much of a choice, if any choice at all, because we have to remember that no other insurance company in Barbados would touch this plan because of the nature of the plan where it caters to 50-plus aged people where the incidents of illnesses are highest. This plan allows you to join it up to age 75 and continue in it until theoretically their death,” he said.
The 40,000 member strong BARP, which “actively promotes the independence, dignity and purpose in life of its members,” according to its website, would explore options as replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued plan, Bushell said.
“We are meeting with various entities to see if we can have something. Not the same plan because to go with the same plan would be crazy. It wouldn’t work.
“But [we want] to do something that members have some sort of coverage; and we are working on that as we speak. But we haven’t come to a conclusion on that yet,” said Bushell.
He commended ICBL for “sticking with us” over the past eight years, during which the plan went through several metamorphoses.
“We have made many adjustments to the plan over the years to keep it alive . . . but it just isn’t working out.”
Bushell said he was keen on getting a health plan tailored for BARP members, suggesting that a scheme which covers catastrophic illness only may be an acceptable alternative.
“Really and truly, especially for that demographic, insurance should be to cover catastrophic illness, not cuts and bruises,” he said.
In a notice dated February 26, 2016 BARP’s Executive Manager Elsa Webster advised participants in the Golden Health Plan that the organization received correspondence from ICBL on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 advising that the association’s board, management and Golden Health Plan Oversight Committee were “actively engaged in identifying feasible alternatives.
“In light of the notification from ICBL, we will not be accepting any new applications to the Golden Health Plan effective Monday, February 29, 2016,” the notice read.
It also encouraged members to continue to pay the premiums through to the end of July in order to maintain health insurance coverage during the period.