He was speaking yesterday during the sitting of the Lower House of Parliament.
He reported that the UNIMED Group Health Plan for monthly paid officers was introduced by the People’s National Movement (PNM) government after negotiations with the Public Services Association and the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association with effect from April 1, 2004 as a benefit for members of the civil and teaching service and holders of certain offices within the purview of the Salaries Review Committee.
He said that currently the plan has a membership of 30,231 comprising 22,544 individuals and 7,687 family members. He explained that the plan provides coverage for major medical up to $1 million and also surgical benefits, medical benefits, diagnostic servcies, prescribed drugs, hospital services, dental services, vision benefit and death and disability benefit.
Imbert said since its introduction, the plan has been heavily utilised by its members and in 2012 family coverage was included for members. The monthly contribution is $129 per month and $287 for family coverage and contribution ratio is 60/40 for employer and employee respectively.
“It should be noted that these rates are among the lowest in the industry. Over time the cost of medical services and procedures has continued to increase simultaneously with the usage of the plan by its members. There has also been increased usage of the plan especially with the introduction of family coverage.” He said industry statistics indicate increases in costs over the past five years in diagnostic services of 15 per cent, prescribed services of 20 per cent, and hospital services of 30 per cent. He explained that the existing rates of contribution, together with the increasing cost of healthcare and the usage of the plan by its members “have had a negative impact on the financial resources of the plan and the plan is currently in deficit.” He said to address the situation, the review of contributions has been engaging the attention of the management committee.
“However, while this is being finalised members of the plan have been experiencing difficulty in the settlement of their claims.
If the current financial situation makes it extremely difficult to treat with claims (which) persists without corrective action by the State, the UNIMED Group Health Plan for monthly paid officers would become insolvent.
Such an occurrence would be a regressive step for public officers in terms of the benefits which they currently enjoy, and have enjoyed since 2004 because of the PNM, while its impact on the members of the plan would be quite deleterious.” He continued, “Further, should the operations of the plan cease, it is anticipated there would be an increased demand on the existing public health care system with significant negative consequences including delays being encountered at public health institutions and a resultant increase in lost man hours.” Imbert said that Government has reviewed the situation “including the impact on the health and well being of public officers and recognises the value of a healthy workforce in the delivery of its services.” He said to clear the current deficit in the plan “as we are a responsible, caring PNM Government”, the Cabinet took a decision yesterday to inject $2 million into the plan “to ensure its continued viability.”