Trimming the fat (literally)

| 12/06/2013

While I follow the current heated debate whether the size of civil servants can be reduced or what austerity measures can be implemented to save the government a buck or two, I must say that among all things that come to mind, the continuous 100% health care coverage for all civil servants AND their dependents is what bugs me the most.

The reason this bugs me is not because I want to be spiteful, but over the last few years I have noticed that there seems to be an increasing trend among civil servants who are – let’s call it out of shape!

In this day and age, everyone knows that there are a many, many health issues which are directly linked to the poor lifestyle choices one makes (overeating, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of exercise, etc). This has been discussed so many times I think I can hold back on another lecture in this regard.

In real life (meaning for people working in the private sector or being self employed) the cost of  healthcare coverage is dictated by such things as whether one smokes, whether one is overweight or whether one partakes in any sports considered to be dangerous. Strangely, none of those factors appear to be issues when it comes to healthcare coverage for civil servants (which is fully funded by the government – hence the people of these Islands), despite it having been well documented that the cost of treating obesity-related ailments, for example, are sky high.

As a non civil servant, I feel that am being taking to the cleaner twice when it comes to healthcare cost. Firstly, healthcare cost is on the rise for everyone because there are way too many people who continue to make poor lifestyle choices, which then lead to certain ailments; those ailments are costly to treat and this leads to increased healthcare cost for everyone. Secondly, as a resident of these Islands, I am also paying indirectly towards the healthcare coverage for all civil servants, no matter if they chose to eat, drink or smoke themselves to near death.

If the premier decides that he cannot reduce the size of the civil service for whatever reason, so be it, and I am not discussing this here. However, I believe that the premier needs to also consider that it is not fair for the general public to continue to fund the healthcare coverage and the cost of treatment for people who themselves don’t seem to want to make an effort to try and stay healthy.

Now is a good time to look at the healthcare policies in place for civil servants, and consider whether civil servants who are clinically obese, who are smokers or who partake in dangerous sports should pay at least 50% of their own healthcare cost and a percentage towards their treatment. Also, civil servants should be paying a portion of the healthcare coverage for their dependents – this is pretty much the norm anywhere else. Perhaps then more civil servants would make an effort to live a healthier life style.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree with income tax being more fair than the current consumption tax method we use here.

    A loaf of bread costs the same for someone out of work as it does for the wealthy. This is totally not fair or healthy for society. A tourist currently pays around 25% to 30% hotel room tax in the high season. This is keeping tourists away. A $500 dollar per night room has a $100 dollar tax on it. This is outrageous. It is one of many ways governemt is trying to make ends meet. In the end this tax structure does nothing but make Cayman unaffordable for visitors and residents alike. It stiffles the economy instead of growing it.  Flat rate income tax is fair and equitable and easy to implement and monitor. No complex tax code needed. It will make government more money and reduce the cost of living and visiting which will boost the economy. You may have less money to spend on payday but your dollar will go farther and buy more as prices come down for lack of duties and other taxes currently in place which will be removed. Handling the current tax set up is expensive and wasteful not to mention detrimental to the economy. One of the greatest benefits will be cheaper electricity rates an prices at the gasoline pump which will add instant economic stimulus.

    Hope those in charge are listening.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don't know where you got 20-30% room tax.  It is 13%.

      • Anonymous says:

        I got the figures from the reservatoin desks at several local hotels on Seven Mile Beach.

        I am a resident here and tried to make reservations for family members who wished to visit in January 2014. I was quoted 23% Hotel room tax.. Try it yourself and see.

         

        One hotel even added $8.50 per day for electricity.

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm almost positive that the hotel room tax is closer to 10% than 25-30%. Not entirely sure where you got that figure from. So for a $500 hotel stay, the tax would be closer to $50.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Trimming fat is always a good first step. Additionally we should finally start considering the unthinkable INCOME TAX.  Simply put, there are lots and lots of people here making 6 and 7 figure salaries. Much of this money is not investedhere and is sent away to other countries for saving and investment. If we had a straight 10 percent flat income tax for those above the poverty line we coulld likely do away with Customs duties on essential (non luxury) items. Luxury items like boats planes and expensive cars could be dutied a higher rates. Raising duty on food that is considered unhealthy or contritbuting to obesity should be taxed as well to offset the high health costs. Those below the poverty line would pay little or no income tax and would have more spending power because of the lack of duty on essential items. Our Customs Tarrif Law is outdated. For example. lard is duty free. This makes zero sense. Most will disagree with the income tax idea because it will hit them sqaurely in the wallet which is exactly where it should hit. 

     

    Cayman was once know as a tax free island. Now look at us. We have taxes on everything but the air we breathe and that will probably change when they find a way to tax it. We can proudly say we have no income tax but that is possibly the root of our economic downfall.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      All right, lets have income tax! This means creating a whole new authority lots of new high paying jobs: Collector of Revenue, Deputy Collector of Revenue, Assistant Collector of Revenue, several Managers of Revenue collection etc etc. we'll need investigators, enforcers and accountants (IRS like) Government will have to lease some dedicated space for this authority and we'd have to create a whole bunch of new legislation with all the loopholes that are customary to accommodate all those special interest groups that have high incomes and do not usually pay taxes in jurisdictions where direct taxation is the norm. Next we have to make sure that all the low-wage earners are exempted from paying income tax. After that we'll have to do away with all the indirect taxation, such as Duty's and fees. The Customs department cut layoff about half its workforce since they no longer have to be the revenue collectors for Government. Yeah, while other Country's envy our Consumer tax system, we want to make the same mistakes they have made and have direct taxation. Amen 

      • Anonymous says:

        Acutally, you're mistaken. It would be a flat, 10% fair tax with no loopholes allowed. No complicated tax code and no special authority needed to oversee it. You may not be aware that a 2008 law now requires all business to submit financial statements annually to CIG (Economics and Statistics Office)- ESO for the purpose of estimating Cayman's GDP. These submissions are currently used for the collection of data only. Since wage and salary figures are a part ot this paperwork CIG collects they already have the data on file for company payroll figures. There are heavy fines and prison time for those who do not submit this paperwork annually. A simple system could be put in place where all paycheques for the private sector are issued through one single government office in order to track payroll amounts and extract the 10%. Employers would send their payroll and salary cheques to this government office instead of paying the employees directly.  Government would reduce the amount paid to the employees by 10% thus having access to the tax on a regular basis rather than once per year  as the IRS does.  Any cheating will show up on the annual financial sheets sent to ESO and penalties for cheating will be stiff. It will not be possible to declare your salary as less than it really is because all money must be accounted for on the annual paperwork.

         

        It's fair, clean and simple. Furthermore, US taxpayers may be exempt on income tax over their foreign earned income limit since they are paying tax in a foreign jurisdiction. With the new efforts internationally to abolish all forms of tax havens, paying 10% on your income in Cayman is a deal compared to what most homelands charge and less complicated too.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don't think other countries envy our consumer tax system and they are smart enough not to go down that road, Taxing consumption isthe best way to increase the cost of living and cause economic shrinkage. Consumption taxes are not fair because everyone pays the same amount of tax regardless of income or lack of income. The poor person has to pay the same fuel tax at the pump as the wealthy person. Who do you thnk this is going to hurt?

         

        Any jobs lost by switching to income based taxation will be taken care of in two ways, New jobs will be created through economic growth and Government will have more revenue to pay down debt and manage social services for the unemployable. Health insurance would become more the burden of the employee rather than the consumer. What we are doing has led to our condition. Our plight will not change until we try somethng different. The current system doesn't work here.

  3. Penny Spent says:

    Your article missed one important point. All of us pay a portion of the health insurance of private sector employees by virtue of the employers contribution being passed on to all consumers (including civil servants) in the form of higher prices. As a retailer, I have to raise the prices of my products to enable me to pay this expense. So you could say that civil servants help to pay the insurance for the non civil servants every time they make a purchase locally.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great article. I agree completely. If the health insurers charged additional premiums for obese people, and CIG refused to pay for those additional premiums as part of the remuneration of civil servants, there would be direct financial incentive for those people to lose weight. The result would be lower premiums for the rest of us, cost savings for the government and less overweight government workers.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I like to see insurance premiums in line with weight. Those that weigh close to their ideal weight (and don't smoke) should pay less.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well said!! Cayman as a whole needs to tackle its obeseity problem.  Personally I think parent should be prosecuted for allow their children to become obese.  Government regulation could help by increasing the duty on 'Junk food' such as soda and chips. Supermarkets and fast food entities which feed so much of our population could try harder to provide healthy (but not boring) alternatives.  Lets hear some solutions out there!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    What amazes me is that there seems to be an impression that all the bad policies of the private sector should be adopted by the public sector. If the private sector has discriminatory policies, so should the government, if the private sector does not pay a fair wage so should government. For some reason I believe the critics in the private sector have gotten this thing back to front. Because I suffer, everyone else should suffer. Is it not more prudent to question the discriminatory policies of private insurance which discriminates on age, weight, sex and to lobby government for improved conditions, since the government is in effect the regulator? Government is supposed to set standards in society. If it is not ensuring that there are fair wages in thei private sector, fairness in healthcare coverage and fairness in employment practices, the solution cannot be for the government to join the private sector so everyone is on equal but poor footing, but rather to advocate to lift the lot of all persons. If everyone is discriminated in the private sector because of some reason or the other, then the burden would still continue to fall on the government to pick up the tab, which will cost society more because the private sector is in effect paying for all the ills do the private sector. Whilst I believe that a national position should be taken to get cayman healthy, discrimination for whatever reason is not justifiable. I suppose with this logic, if someone becomes old and gets cancer or diabetes because of their age, it is ok for private insurers to reduce coverage because of age and condition and that the real problem is that government is giving its employees appropriate coverage when it’s retired employees are most vulnerable. I believe the lobbying the private sector should be focusing on is improving employee rights. Do you not find it strange that private sector employees are advocating for poor employ,net practices….the private sector employers must be swinging in their hammocks wondering how this miracle happened. The best thing the private sector could do for itself is come together as a groups and advocate for fair employment practices for this large a group…this is a page they can take out of the civil service book.

    • Anonymous says:

      So are you saying that the employers across the board should be paying for all of it? Why?

      I am an employer, and why am I being punished and have to pay 100% outrageouse health care coverage for someone who chose to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day for the last 20 years and has now a lung problem? The person who smoked could find the money for the cigarettes but now can't contribute toward health care cost?

      The general problem is that everyone looks for someone else to be responsible instead of realizing that everyone is firstly responsible for themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think your approach is very laudable and I totally agree with your aim to improve conditions for all. However, while we are working on achieving that standard, does it not bother you that the taxpayer has to continue funding 100% of the healthcare cost of a priviledged group, while at the same time paying exorbitant premiums for declining coverage of their own healthcare cost and, of course, more out-of-pocket expenses for the increasing list of uncovered items? 

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am getting really SICK and TIRED of this civil cervant b.s.

    I am a cs and make less than in the privat sector.

    Cinico sucks. Only governmental health care is included, and they have no idea what they are talking about.

    You should compare the numbers before going with what the people like to hear.

    We civil servants are underpaid and haven't got a raise in the last 5 years.

    The top in the cs makes money of course, because they make the rules.

    For us normal people it is hard.

    By the way, we don't have free health care. We also pay for it by having a lower salary than compared to privat business.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Rubbish! 

      Many people in the private sector have not received a pay increase in years either. They have to pay 50% of their healthcare coverage and contribute to their pension. Yes, they can go to any healtcare provider they chose but usually have to pay out of pocket in advance because doctors don't take the insurance card. We then have to sit often for months and wait to be reimbursed by the insurance company (if we get the proper reimbursement at all).

      I am also having to pay CI$ 350/annum on deductibles plus additional deductibles for my family members. Then I pay 20% of all treatments until my co-pay is met. The other day I went to a doctors visit, had to get some lab work done and ended up with a bill of CI$ 500 which was the portion of my payment NOT covered by insurance and I hadn't budgeted for!

      When I had to go for treatment to the US, I had to pay for my own flight, for the flight of a person who had to take me as I was in no condition to drive. I also had to pay for hotel room out of my pocket. All of this is covered for by CINICO and you don't have to pay one lousy dollar for it!

      If you think that you are overworked and underpaid, you should perhaps switch to the private sector then.

    • Anonymous says:

      THE GO GET A JOB IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR!!!!

      Cant? Not educated enough? Wont? To lazy to get out and try to find a job?

      I am Caymanian. I have an MBA. I work in private sector. I receive an ok salary. I pay $900 a month for my dependents' coverage, while mine is paid by my employer. I still have to pay a deductible for each dependent. So while you say that Cinico sucks, you still get free health care while I pay for every thing unless it is a major catastrophe.

      Are you underpaid? What do you do? if you feel you are underpaid and you say you havent gotten a raise in 5 years THEN GO OUT AND GET A JOB IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR.

      Otherwise, zip your lip, take your free health care and your cushy job.

      • Anonymous says:

        To: Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/13/2013 – 12:33.                       If it sucks having to pay $900 p.m for your dependents then why don't you join the public service.Oh wait you would not make as much money as you are making now.So you see we have to make choices .Some choose the public service because they like it and  accept the salary offered, because of the benefits.Some choose the private sector because they love it or love all that money coming in,and are prepared to put up with having to contribute to their dependents insurance coverage, because their pay package more than makes up for it.                                                                                             Can we please stop hating on Civil Servants and consider what it would be like if we had no Civil Service.eg ,,if we had no public police service ,consider the alternative.A private security force made up of $5 p.h. security guards, working for a rich boss who is the one making the money ,and all of us having to pay and arm and leg for this service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here's the thing 22:33…

       

      Being "underpaid" you evidently think the market rate for someone with your skills, experience and qualifications is higher than your current salary.  If you are so sure of that, why not resign and get another job that is more in line with the market?

       

      If you don't believe you could find another job paying more than you currently earn, then YOU ARE NOT UNDERPAID, by definition.

       

      Being underpaid does not mean earning less than you would like to, or think you are entitled to earn.  The market dictates salary levels.  No man is a market my friend.

       

      Now, if the government could find someone with the same or better qualifications willing to do your job for less salary and/or less generous benefits, you are in fact OVERPAID, by definition.  Based on your apparent literacy level and the number of unemployed Caymanian graduates who would prefer your job to sitting at home, I would think that is the more likely scenario.

       

       

  9. Anonymous says:

    Oh good. At long last a new way to bash the civil service. I was getting so bored with the pension/lazy/inefficient stuff.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Time to end all of the CIG-sponsored free-loading.  MLAs should give back their 2009 40% pay increases, the double dipping pension and salary sham, the Cayman Airways employee and alumni free-bee's, the CIG gas cards, the list goes on and on…I look forward to considerable changes in procedures and acceptible conduct going forward.  Over to you Roy!  

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree with you on the Cayman Airways front.  Everyone who ever did anything with Cayman Airways gets free flights, unlimitedand their mother, father, brother, children, godmother, cousin, cousin's aunt sally and their dogs too!  it's ridiculous and what's worth is that those of us who actually pay for our flights are treating like crap.  needs to be a re-think about this.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well said, everyone should contribute to their health insurance, it's unfair and unreasonable that the private sector should have to pay their half and the rest of the country get free hand outs. CS get paid more handsomely, in most cases, than a lot of us in the private sector.  I really hope that this government takes this into serious consideration and don't worry about who will elect them next election.

    • Anonymous says:

      The way I see it, Government is going to have to make a choice who they are going to piss off, but one way or another they are going to piss off some voters cause the Civil Servants aren't the only ones voting.

      I would prefer for Government to lower the fuel tax which would benefit EVERYONE and not just the Civil Servants and recoup that money by having the Civil Servants contribute to their health care cost.

    • Anonymous says:

      We wish that you mis-informed whiners would just accept that civil servants are willing to contribute to their health care insurance premiums and pay their deductibles.

      In return, civil servants simply ask for the right to chose their health care provider and not be locked in to majority funding of the health care facilities of the Government so that you free-loading whiners can enjoy lower premiums on your health care coverage. Is that so hard to figure out?

    • Anonymous says:

      12:56, et al, if your bandwagon wants a factual and fair national debate with a view to a sensible and realistic solution to civil service health insurance premuims, please consider coming to the table with clean hands and less bitterness in your hearts. There is a solution to this challenge but please stop lying about the intentions of civil servants. This does nothing other than to create ill feelings among us all.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Amen.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hear, hear.  It's high time the civil service got in shape. 

     

    The following is from this article.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-dean-ornish/health-care-costs-treat-cause-symptom-prevention_b_1833789.html

     

     

    "More than 75 percent of the $2.8 trillion in health care costs [in the US] are due to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes that can be largely prevented by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. We don't need to wait for a new drug or laser or high-tech breakthrough; we simply need to put into practice what we already know.

    For example, in the EPIC study of 23,000 people, walking for just 30 minutes/day, not smoking, eating a reasonably healthy diet, and keeping a healthy weight prevented 93 percent of diabetes, 81 percent of heart attacks, 50 percent of strokes and 36 percent of all cancers. Bigger changes in diet and lifestyle can do even more."

  14. Anonymous says:

    Your argument would have more weight (pun intended) if it had just stuck to the impracticality and waste of money paying for dependent coverage is, compared to the private sector in which dependent coverage is paid out of pocket.

    Picking on government workers for being fat is not relevant as there are fat people in the private sector too and merely convey's a belief that they are all lazy. Unless that was then intent.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is not about picking on fat people, however, it is not fair that everyone should have to bare the cost of others making poor lifestyle choices. We are already punished by an ever increasing healtcare cost because there are so many people who just don't want to take care of themselves (be it that they smoke, drink themselves to a coma, whatever), but the general public is also indirectly paying for the healtcare cost of the entire Civil Service. Why?

      So I am paying a percentage of healtcare cost for myself and my dependents and also have to contribute indirectly to the health care cost of all Civl Servants. That is not fair!

    • Anonymous says:

      I grew up with a healtcare system where I never had to worry about paying any medical cost whatsoever. Then I moved to the US and got the shock of mylife when I had to pay out of pocket or a percentage of my doctor visits, blood tests etc. and realized how expensive everything was.

      Point is, when people don't have to pay for services, they tend to abuse them. Whether it be by not taking care of themselves cause they know they can just run to the doctor or by running to the doctor every 5 minutes and get every test under the planet done (ideally in Florida where it can be combined with a shopping trip!)

  15. Anonymous says:

    very well said…. and thank you CNS for posting such an honest assesment…..

  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree that civil servants as well as every one else should try whereever possible to adopt a healthy life style, but if you think that a non civil servant who is also not living a healthy life style in not also pushing up your premiums you are very much mistaken. Why are you people declaring “open season” on civil servants? How do you think your private sector job would survive without the assistance of civil servants? Civil servants are not the only ones sitting on their duffs all day and doing nothing- they are not the only one overweight, smoking, drinking etc. SOME OF YOU NEED TO TAKE THE SPECK OUT OF YOUR OWN EYES BEFORE YOU TRY TO TAKE THE PLANK OUT OF SOMEONE ELSE’S EYE. Civil servants are humans too!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Please read the article again. It states clearly that everyone is already punished with higher health care coverage because of poor life style choices others make, HOWEVER, in addition to this, we are also have to indirectly fund the healthcare cost for all Civil Servants. So every non Civil Servant is punished twice.

      This is not open season on Civil Servants, this is just that if a country is as broke as we are, why can't Civil Servants not pay for their benefits when everyone else is expected to do so.

  17. Anonymous says:

    A weight control clause in civil service employment contracts would seem very sensible. 

  18. St Peter says:

    Well written article!

  19. Anonymous says:

    It would be shocking to know how many bariartric (weight loss) surgeries CINICO has paid for (for civil servants and others) over the past fiveyears. I agree with the author in that civil servants should have to contribute to their insurance premiums and to also pay deductibles/co-insurance just like everybody else. When one doesn’t have to put their hands in their own pocket, one doesn’t worry too much about the cost. Even a 10% contribution to the premium for them and their dependants would put a dent in government’s liability to CINICO for premiums.

  20. Tara says:

    Absolutely 100% agree with Sweet Pea – a brave Viewpoint – very sad but sadly true.  This is not personal but certainly a spotlight on an issue that may be awkward to address but should be addressed and there’s no time like the present.  I would imagine that those that may take offense will be those that don’t wish to make difficult decisions to change their lifestyles but sadly that’s what got us in this mess to begin with – an unwillingness to know when ‘enough is enough’ and this goes for servings of food as much as it goes for spending money on credit that we don’t have – this goes for us as a country including government and goes for us personally – we cannot have everything we want when we want it and expect there to be no consequences – this goes for spending more than we can afford and eating more than is good for us!

    Thank you Sweet Pea for bringing this awkward issue to light – I hope it prompts some sensible discussion and leads to some sensible (if difficult) decisions to benefit us all in the long term.

  21. Rorschach says:

    If CS had to pass the same physical tests as private sector to get health coverage, onlyabout 1% of them would qualify..sad, but true…