Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Investigate them! - Lawmakers want Gov't to examine certain practices of insurance companies

Published:Saturday | November 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Staff Reporter

Two lawmakers have called for the Government and the parliamentary Opposition to commence a joint investigation of local insurance companies that they claim are demanding that policyholders, including pregnant women and persons with cancer, upfront the cost of their medical treatment.

Government Senator Saphire Longmore and her Opposition counterpart, Sophia Frazer-Binns, indicated that their call was based on personal experiences.

Frazer-Binns revealed that during her first pregnancy in 2015, she was shocked to learn that she would be required to foot the entire cost of her pre-natal care then reclaim it from her insurance provider.

Longmore, a medical doctor and breast cancer survivor, charged that "many persons" are being denied access to care by insurance providers on the grounds that there is "no coverage for their stated illness" or that there is a "newly recognised limit" on their coverage.




"It is wrong, simply wrong, Mr President, and affects persons when they are at their lowest," declared Longmore, who was making her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate yesterday.

"I wonder if there is need for an independent tribunal, where persons who find themselves in the very cruel circumstances can turn to for medical and legal guidance in seeking insurance-coverage justice," she added.

For Frazer-Binns, the issues demand urgent action.

"Mr President, whereas Government does not generally interfere in the operations of the private sector, the Government has a duty to ensure the private sector operates in a way that is balanced and fair to citizens," said Frazer-Binns during her State of the Nation address.

"I, therefore, call on the Government - both sides - to investigate this practice and commence discussion with our private sector to see how a more equitable position can be arrived at," she said.

The Gleaner first reported in March that there were concerns among women's rights advocates that pregnant women were being required to pay for prenatal care, lab tests, ultrasounds, hospital fees, the delivery of their babies, and in some cases, their prescriptions, then submit a claim form to the insurance company for a refund despite having health insurance.

"What madness! What heartlessness is this? Our insurance companies are run by men and women of heart, I pray. Let's have some heart!" Frazer-Binns said.