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‘Watch them’

by Sheria Brathwaite
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Airport workers call for more Gov’t scrutiny after insurance company pulls group plan By Sheria Brathwaite A group of frontline workers is pleading with the Government to scrutinise the operations of insurance companies to ensure they do not take advantage of policyholders. The call follows the cancellation of two group insurance policies that were offered to healthcare and frontline workers in 2020. In an interview with Barbados TODAY, a spokesperson for a group of 55 Grantley Adams International Airport workers said they felt “betrayed”.’ In 2020, Sagicor Life Inc. offered the Healthcare Heroes Group Insurance Plan and the Frontline Heroes Group Insurance Plan. Those like the airport workers who took up the latter policy were paying premiums ranging from $40 to $350, depending on the level of coverage and the number of dependents included, with coverage ranging from $100 000 to $1 million. More than 90 workers represented by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) took up the policy through the union’s subsidiary insurance company, NUPW Insurance Agent Inc. However, on June 27, 2023, they were informed that their group life, accidental death and dismemberment and critical illness policies would not be renewed. NUPW Insurance Agent Inc. sent correspondence to the policyholders stating that “Sagicor Life Inc. informed that after 2022-23 review and the usual in-depth analysis of the performance of the plan, they determined that the feasibility of renewing coverage was not a viable option”. “It is upsetting because, one, they say that they offered this plan during COVID-19 but . . . COVID-19 has gone nowhere. Critical care is still there, every day people getting sick, people still dying, people still having heart attacks, we are still in danger. Now they came in a matter of days to say this policy is no more and it will be cancelled on June 30,” the spokesperson told Barbados TODAY. “Government needs to look into these things when insurance companies like Sagicor are going to come and tell us, ‘oh, we care, buy this’ and then less than a good two years afterwards say ‘no, we can’t do this no more and our money is burnt up’, because the individual policy the average person cannot afford. We feel more than duped, we feel betrayed. We feel as though these things continue to happen . . . and they must be stopped.” The correspondence from the insurance agent stated that workers had until the end of the month to convert their policy to a new one. “They are pushing other policies at us that are not favourable for some of us and giving us a month to take a policy or our money is burnt and that is not good enough . . . . NUPW needs to come out and let the public know what this company has done to their workers,” the spokesperson further lamented. Consultant executive at NUPW Insurance Agent Inc. Tyrone Lowe explained to Barbados TODAY that given the nature of group life insurance, reimbursement was not a typical option. He further suggested that the other policies Sagicor put on the table were beneficial in the long run. “We are very conscious of the fact that many people cannot afford high premiums but what we know is this converted policy that you can accept will give you savings down the road . . . . When you convert now to an individual whole-life policy, after a couple of years you’ll get cash value that you can use for your savings enhancement. It can help you with pension planning and other things like that. “So when that is converted, it [the premium], depending on your age, will move from $40 to a little over $100 if you maintain the same $100 000 coverage. If you maintain $1 million, it will go up to about $400-$500 or more. If you want to stay with your $40, we are saying do not convert the entire $100 000, maybe convert $50 000 or $25 000 – some smaller amount that would still give you some coverage for your family’s protection and won’t increase your premium too much,” Lowe explained. At the same time, he said the downside of the cancellation of the policy was that it could lead to people losing faith in insurance companies. “It could have a ripple in the economy and market confidence and make people wonder about insurance. I can tell you now where we are, some persons have expressed concern that they just recently came out of an experience with a recently failed insurance giant and now here we are again, another great insurance company that we had our confidence in is now threatening our cover,” Lowe said. Meanwhile, NUPW general secretary Richard Greene said the union was “disappointed” that Sagicor Life Inc. had cancelled the policy. “Recognising the value of the plan to members and their dependents, the NUPW through the NUPW Insurance Agent Inc. has requested to meet with Sagicor to discuss the continuation of this plan,” he told Barbados TODAY. “Right now we cannot say too much to prejudice the discussions with Sagicor.” sheriabrathwaite@barbadostoday.bb]]>

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