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Hike in health insurance costs will 'kill' patients

Published:Wednesday | March 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Dr Peter Phillips, Opposition spokesman on finance

Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr Peter Phillips has described as "pernicious", the new tax on group health insurance premiums.

Noting that Jamaica's health system is grossly inadequate to provide proper services to citizens, Phillips argued that no government in the past has ever taxed health insurance premiums.

He said the effect of this 16.5 per cent tax on group health insurance that the Government announced last week would be devastating on individuals.

Citing the case of a woman whose name he gave as Monica, a cancer patient who took early retirement, Phillips said she remained a part of a special group plan for retirees in the firm she once worked and pays insurance premiums of $14,000 per month.

With a fixed income, Phillips said the cancer patient's medication without insurance is more than $40,000 per month.

According to Phillips, with Monica's insurance coverage, she pays only $8,000 for medication.




"With this new tax, her $14,000 per month premium will go up, but her income is fixed, and she is unable to find the increase. She is literally looking at the doors of death if she is unable to secure the medication which her insurance coverage used to provide for her," Phillips reasoned during his Budget Debate presentation in Parliament yesterday.

He called for the health tax to be withdrawn, noting that it was motivated by partisan concerns rather than the national interest.

Advising the Government to "wheel and come again", Phillips said the announced tax measure would be burdensome on the majority of Jamaicans, especially the poorest.

Despite claims by Finance and Public Service Minister Audley Shaw that employers would defray the additional cost of the tax on group health insurance, Phillips contended that the effect would be an immediate increase in the costs of premiums to firms and individuals.