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Sagicor and a worker's right to maternity benefits

Published:Friday | April 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Sagicor Group Jamaica headquarters in New Kingston.





I am a young professional woman who works with a government agency. I pay my taxes, responsibly take care of my bills, and I have health insurance, as all government workers do. My insurance company is through Sagicor Group Health. So you can imagine my dismay (and even now I find it unbelievable) that after learning that I became pregnant, that my first ever pregnancy is not covered by my insurance. When I, a now-pregnant female government worker, would not be eligible for maternity benefits, I was informed by Sagicor (twice for clarity) that because I do not have a family plan, I am not eligible for maternity benefits.

Now, one would think that a female pregnant woman covered under a health plan (a prominent one, at that) would automatically be covered.

I do not have a family to speak of (at least not yet), family members are not allowed to be put on my health plan, and my partner already has his own individual plan - hence my thinking it was not necessary for him to be on my plan.

My assumption was that Sagicor would cover a portion of my delivery and allow me to such bills I incurred as a result of the pregnancy, or at least a portion of it. Apparently, my assumption was wrong. I was advised that I would have had to wait nine months BEFORE the pregnancy to add a spouse (that already has a plan elsewhere) and move to a family plan in order to reap maternity benefits. How realistic.

Now I and other unsuspecting pregnant women are now

burdened by the additional costs associated with pregnancy, additional costs I could have avoided if I had known to switch to a family plan.

And also now, I and other unsuspecting pregnant females either now have to further

burden the public health-care system or pay the additional money to go to a private hospital. Prenatal visits will run you $3,500-$5,000 per visit (one is needed per month and more visits needed closer to the pregnancy).

I also am scheduled to undergo a Caesarean delivery, which at best, at the University Hospital of the West Indies, will cost $180,000. I do not want to imagine what private hospital care will cost.

I would have preferred to be initially notified by Sagicor through my employer (and upon signing up for health insurance) that this is a requirement, as I have no issue paying the additional sum. Or be issued a penalty as a result of not switching to a family plan that only a portion of delivery or bills be covered.

So it is with this that I say to the women who are planning to become pregnant, know of the loopholes that might prevent you from receiving maternity funds. Ask questions about your plan and your eligibility for maternity benefits, for you will not be told. It may be late for me, but it may not be for you.