The National Insurance Department has reported a sharp rise in claims for the first four months of the year, when compared year on year with 2018, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn has disclosed.
Straughn reported a 45 per cent increase in claims across all benefit categories, with the largest increase among claims for sickness benefits.
“These statistics do not bode well for our goals of maintaining the health of the nation, and this trend does not augur well for annual expenditure projections across all benefit categories.
“With respect to the increase in sickness claims submitted, steps are being taken to identify causes and have action taken to halt, slow or reverse this trend.
As he spoke at the NIS’s GEM Awards Ceremony, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, he commended the staff for diligently expediting these claims in a timely manner.
“The impact of the increase in claims has been an increased workload for the staff of the department, who have been called upon to process more claims and face the increased demands of the public.
“The staff’s response has been commendable, and they are keenly aware that the department is the nation’s lifeline.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Straughn also said Government was working with the NIS to introduce paternity leave, as was recently announced by Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
He said: “This is but one of the many social improvement strategies that the National Insurance Department will be able to extend to many a family in Barbados.
“I certainly look forward to working with your board and your members of staff to be able to bring that policy to fruition in the soonest possible time.”
NIS is currently collecting the Health Services Contribution payroll tax to pay for the operations of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
The NIS, he said, had been partly responsible for tens of thousands of dollars being distributed to the QEH since late 2018.
Straughn said: “This funding will contribute to a substantially higher standard of healthcare in the country.
“In addition, the improvement of primary care in the island’s polyclinics, through the implementation of a 24-hour service at a number of polyclinics, improved security and an improved staffing complement will add to this multi-pronged approach of strengthening the health of the nation, one Barbadian at a time.”
The Minister gave the assurance that Government was committed to ensuring the National Insurance Scheme was “never again” jeopardised by the actions of a few.
He said that since the beginning of the IMF-sponsored economic restructuring plan the Mia Mottley administration had committed to staying current on paying NIS contributions to workers, and had put in place a structure for recouping the Government’s own unpaid contribution to the NIS over the last several years.
“The department has received Government paper which will facilitate the repayment of monies owed by the Government of Barbados and ensure that the fund is no longer endangered,” Straughn said.
NIS Database Administrator Christopher Cox was awarded Employee of the Year, while the Director’s Award was presented to Claudette Moore and the Supervisor of the Year title went to Lisa Wood. Gloria Haynes, who worked 40 years at the department, received one of the many long service awards.
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