BVI News

Gov’t halts quest for special health insurance plan for HOA

Dr Wheatley

The government has officially decided to halt the tender process for the controversial special group insurance plan being sought for current and former House of Assembly (HOA) members.

Acting Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley said in a statement on Thursday, June 8, that the process has been halted so HOA members can have further deliberations and “consider the views of the public”.

“It is your government’s position that an important matter such as how we care for our former legislators in their golden years and on their passing, should not be shrouded in discord and controversy. To reemphasise the assurance given by the Honourable Premier on this matter, whatever is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands will be the only course of action,” Wheatley said.

His statement follows backlash from the public as well as a statement from members of the Opposition who has sought to distance themselves from the government’s Request For Proposals (RFP) to local health insurers interested in providing the coverage.

In his statement, Dr Wheatley also corroborated his party-mate Sharie de Castro’s account of the matter, and further described the Opposition’s position as “duplicitous” and “deceptive”.

The Acting Premier accused the Opposition of downplaying their involvement “now that they perceive it to be a hot potato – having supported the position all along for supplemental insurance coverage for current and past legislators”.

“What is more important than the political flip-flopping by the Members of the Opposition are the blatant untruths in their statements as regards the chain of events leading up to the issue of the RFP,” he added.

The proposed insurance plan — which has sparked major public backlash — effectively seeks to circumvent the territory’s National Health Insurance scheme and offer legislators health coverage in a number of areas including for cosmetic surgery (in the event of an accident), alcoholism, and substance abuse rehabilitation.

Below is Dr Wheatley’s full statement on the matter:

Good day and God’s blessings to the people of the Virgin Islands. As Acting Premier, and consequently the Acting Minister of Finance and Acting Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly (HOA), I wish to call out the duplicitous conduct and deceptive statements being made by Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition with respect to the matter of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for health insurance for current and former legislators.

It is clear from the press release issued by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, dated 7 June, 2021, that most Opposition Members are trying to distance themselves from the issue now that they perceive it to be a hot potato – having supported the position all along for supplemental insurance coverage for current and past legislators. But what is more important than the political flip-flopping by the Members of the Opposition are the blatant untruths in their statements as regards the chain of events leading up to the issue of the RFP.

The facts are that the Members of the Opposition have been involved in this matter from the inception – and this includes the Honourable Member for the 2 nd District, who is a part of the Privileges Committee of the House of Assembly, which first raised the matter.

Given his background in insurance, he was selected as the lead Member on this matter. Secondly, contrary to the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Representative for the 2nd District, Honourable Melvin Turnbull was consulted by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on the contents of the RFP prior to and up to its publication, and the Member raised no concerns throughout the entire process in the nature that he is claiming today.

The Representative for the 2nd District had no major objections to the RFP, although minor changes were suggested, and he did not ask for the RFP to be held back. The matter of insurance for current and former Members of the HOA is a matter being dealt with by the Committee of Privileges, which is chaired by the Honourable Speaker.

The issue was first raised by the current Committee of Privileges a few months after the 2019 General Election. The Member for the 2nd District had indicated to the Committee of Privileges that the matter of insurance was a long outstanding issue, it needed to be dealt with early, and it had his full support as the previous Government was afraid to touch it. Consequently, the sub-Committee of Privileges in 2019 held a series of meetings to iron out all the details for the insurance and agreed to meet with three local insurance companies recommended by the Member for the 2 nd District to advise on what was needed to proceed.

The Member for the 2nd District – as the lead Member – held the preliminary meetings with the three insurance companies and then reported to the Committee, after which the companies made presentations to the Committee. The Member for the 2nd District attended two out of the three meetings with the insurance companies where presentations were made. At no time in 2019, when the Member for the 2nd District first brought the matter to the attention of the Privileges Committee, did he recommend that it needed to be placed on hold, pending a study.

After the Committee decided what was required, the Honourable Speaker gave a report to the whole House on the deliberations, in keeping with Standing Order (SO) 83 (1). Again, the matter of the insurance received support from all Members, including the Honourable Leader of the Opposition and the Member for the 2nd District. There were no objections from the Member for the 2nd District for the matter to wait on any study or amendments to the National Health Insurance (NHI), as the Member for the 2 nd District is now claiming.

After the Privileges Committee completed its internal work, a recommendation was made to the MOF in 2019 for funding. Funding for the insurance was allocated in the 2020 Budget, which was presented to the HOA in November 2019. Due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, many projects and programmes were slowed down, and as such the insurance matter was one of those that was put on the back burner due to the need to attend to other matters at the time. The funds allocated in the 2020 Budget were repurposed.

During the 2021 Budget process, which took place in 2020, the issue was raised and Members requested that the funds be returned in the 2021 Budget, to help former Legislators who were ill. The appropriate procedure was followed and funds were allocated in the 2021 Budget for the insurance as formally requested by the Clerk, the Speaker and Members. The Member for the 2nd District was copied in most correspondences to the Premier and the Financial Secretary (FS) regarding the draft Cabinet Paper on the subject, including and as recent as 10 October, 2019.

There continued to be no objections from the Member for the 2nd District along the lines as he is contending today. At an informal meeting towards the end of 2020, the FS recommended that, while he appreciated the Privileges sub-committee’s internal process – of which the Member for the 2nd District was fully involved and took the lead, the FS recommended the request for HOA insurance should go out on public tender. Members agreed with the recommendation of the FS, and hence as the funds were then available, the request was sent to the Public Tender Board, and the Member for the 2nd District was in contact with the officer assigned.

Even then, the FS was reminded that if there were questions that they could have contacted the Member for the 2nd District as the lead Member. The Member for the 2nd District was present at an emergency sub-committee meeting on 12 March, 2021, via Zoom, with the Procurement Officer to discuss the insurance matter, and he did not state any reservations about moving forward.

The matter of the insurance was discussed by Members at an informal meeting on 21 April, 2021, at which the Ag FS and the Procurement Officer were present and where Members asked questions and clarified what should be included in the insurance. All Members at the meeting fully participated including the Opposition Leader Hon. Marlon A. Penn, Opposition Member Hon Julian Fraser and the Government side, and more items were recommended for the package.

The MOF then drafted the RFP and sent a draft tender to the Speaker. The Member for the 2nd District was copied in that email correspondence, which is contrary to the Member’s claims that he did not see the final document before it went out for tender. Once the final tender was sent to the Speaker and copied to the Member for the 2nd District as lead Member, the Speaker asked the Member for the 2nd District to meet with the Procurement Officer, and there is documented confirmation that the Member for the 2nd District did meet with the Procurement Officer and made further changes to the document.

The Member for the 2nd District, throughout all of this has not been a silent observer, nor has he been excluded or absent in any way. The Member for the 2nd District has been front and centre participating actively in carrying the insurance matter forward, particularly in his role as the lead Member in light of his expertise in the subject. No objections or reservations were heard from the Member for the 2nd District until after the matter became the subject of news reports and public commentary, where he now claims that his position was to wait until the NHI amendment and for a study to be done. The only concerns voiced by the Member during the process had to do with including funeral expenses for former or current Members in the coverage. These are the facts. The public should also be advised that on 7 June, 2021, a meeting was convened at the HOA to discuss the facts in this matter and witnesses were called.

At that meeting, it was confirmed by the Procurement Officer that she did not get any impression from the Member for the 2nd District that the tender process was to halted pending any report from the Member for the 2nd District or any other objections as the Member is today claiming to have harboured.

The officer confirmed the Member for the 2nd District’s constant and full participation and that the Member was scheduled to appear on the behalf of the HoA for the pre-tender meeting scheduled for Wednesday, 9 June, 2021. The facts, as established, show that the Honourable Member for the 2nd District is being duplicitous and disingenuous and that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition is complicit with him in trying to mislead the public.

If members of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition had concerns about the Tender documents, the principled action would have been to request a meeting of the Privileges Committee and, subsequently, a meeting of the whole House. This was not done; rather members of the Opposition issued a misleading and inaccurate press release after colluding among themselves. Notwithstanding the political pandering and flip-flopping from the Opposition, and the overall facts as have outlined above, your

Government has taken a decision to halt the tender for the insurance service for current and former HOA Members, so that we can have further deliberations among the Members of the HOA and also to consider the views of the public on the matter.

It is your Government’s position that an important matter such as how we care for our former Legislators in their golden years and on their passing, should not be shrouded in discord and controversy. To re-emphasize the assurance given by the Honourable Premier on this matter, whatever is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands will be the only course of action. In BVILove, I thank you and may God forever bless these beautiful Virgin Islands and her people.

 

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20 Comments

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  1. Tola says:

    Good. Thank God for Cindy and Kishma

    Like 39
    Dislike 5
    • BVISLANDER, STATE SIDE says:

      CINDY AND KISHMA, I APPRECIATE THEM FOR WHAT THEY HAVE DONE. STATE SIDE, THE PEOPLE WOULD HAVE TAKEN IT TO THE STREETS WITH SIGNS AND BULLHORNS. THOSE TWO WOMEN HAVE A HUGE FOLLOWING IN THE STATES. WE MAY NOT SAY ANYTHING BUT WE TUNE IN AND WATCH. LADIES CONTINUE DOING WHAT YOU ARE DOING,

      Like 27
      Dislike 1
    • I would agree says:

      This was a shock and wake up call for the Taxpayers. Seriously, it hurts. How could they sit back and plotted something like that? They are looking out for themselves and their Families only. They want us the Taxpayers to pay the bill for their high end insurance. NOT MY TAXES THAT I PAY, NOT ONE RED CENT. THAT WAS A DIRTY BLOW THEY WERE LAYING ON US. I AM SO GLAD THEY GOT EXPOSED. WE THE PEOPLE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF ALL OF YOU. WE SERIOUSLY NEED A BREAK FROM ALL OF YOU.

      Like 11
  2. Overspend says:

    Don’t we have a consultant that could be given a non tender contract to produce (or perhaps not produce) a report on this topic!

    Like 11
    Dislike 1
    • Really??!! says:

      You know what my problem is with this insurance thing?! There are people right now who struggling to feed their families, pay rent and all kinda other things right now and the government see it fit to go spend money on these legislators who can afford to pay their medical bills out of pocket and probably not even miss it. I see minister Wheatley from Immigration on JTV with a stacked folder just from people who begging for help, totaling more than 1 million dollars, how about putting that money towards that?! I am sure if I go to them and beg them for anything right now it will take a lifetime for them to give me (if they give me at all!). I am working (and grateful) and still literally f+×£¥₩g begging), so imagine who not working. Who feels it knows it sah, maybe the bank might lend me the pittance I beg for to see if I can dig myself out of this hole! Dig hole to full hole, da mek sense?! And I sure I’m not the only one! But life gotta go on somehow I guess, a breakthrough must come one day! These legislators need to do better!

      Like 11
  3. heckler says:

    Batman is in quarantine so Robin is calling all the shots now

  4. thank you cindy and kishma says:

    “if its good for us its good for them”

    Like 16
    Dislike 1
  5. Pandora says:

    My God – what bull$hit!

    “It is your government’s position that an important matter such as how we care for our former legislators in their golden years and on their passing, should not be shrouded in discord and controversy. To reemphasise the assurance given by the Honourable Premier on this matter, whatever is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands will be the only course of action,” Wheatley said.

    Why do you elected officials think you are so special? And if the public disagrees to patronize us with terminology saying that what you’re doing is showing discord and controversy! It is you that is sewing discord and controversy. We he people are getting really angry right now! All of you taking us for aa set of chumps!

    You are no better than anyone else that is in this country from top to bottom, high earner to lowest earner! No one gives a $hit about how special you think the former legislators are in their ‘golden years’! What you should be caring about is everyone in their ‘golden years’ in these islands that are needing care that you neglect in favour of your chosen few! It goes for everyone else on all matters. It seems what is good for the people is not good enough for you – your over inflated sense of self worth is disgusting and offensive! You Sir, are nothing special! Get over it!

    Like 28
    Dislike 1
  6. BIG youth says:

    BOI U MAKING mr WILLARD SHAKE HIS HEAD 🤫

    Like 11
    Dislike 2
  7. IF NHI IS GOOD FOR ME says:

    NHI IS GOOD FOR YOU – ALL LEGISLATORS, PAST, AND PRESENT.

  8. informed says:

    Dont you find it strange at a time when they are under a COI investigation the concerns of the government are only with themselves. Pensions, Pay Rise, Additional Medical Cover. Full pay for 2 years after their term.

    Pushing all these through before the UK concludes the investigation.

    Thanks Cindy and Kishma for bringing this to our attention.

    Like 19
  9. LOL says:

    First thing the man come out and address is the Opposition, not the bill or the people innuh, the Opposition. Real clown.

    Like 15
  10. Mr. SOWANDE says:

    Hear this, IF NHI IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR US, IT IS DAMN SURE GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. MY FAMILY AND I ARE JUST AS SPECIAL AS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. IT BACK FIRED ON ALL OF YOU GREEDY A**ES.GOODDDDD.

  11. Here’s another thing says:

    We the People, your employer, will not accept anything being put on hold. It must be squashed.

    Like 10
  12. Anonymous says:

    Disgraceful selfishness. ONE TERM as an elected member of the House and they want life time medical for ALL procedures for them and family members forever… and who pays: the taxpayers of course. They want pay rises, bigger pensions, more allowances… Time for a revolution… So many people struggling and they talking only about themselves PURE BS…

  13. Belonger says:

    All of them should be ashamed of themselves – using past legislators as an excuse.
    All of us out here have to depend on NHI to help us when we get sick.
    What they should be doing is sitting down and trying to see how they could improve NHI so that none of us would need supplemental insurance.
    It’s like the captain jumping off a sinking ship first. Such a shame.
    None of them is fit for office including the opposition.
    It’s a pity we can’t just get rid of all of them and put a new and decent set a people to run the country.

  14. The U party says:

    VIP is rebranded as the U party. Writing the letter U is like VIP’s decisions. You start at one point confident you know where you/we are going. Then someone has to point out the obvious errors in their judgement. This is where the curve begins. After swallowing some pride and figuring out how they are going to spin their error in judgement, they end up back to where they started, but not quite – The letter U…..waiting on the next U turn.

  15. Choices says:

    Poppy Show government. if incompetence was a person it would be the spitting image of Minister ***. I wasted my vote.

  16. ANGRY FARMER/FISHER says:

    Hon. Wheatley, where is the 2nd stimulus your promise at the farmers and fishers meeting for those who did not received. I am really upset that this meeting what was held at the Elmore Stoutt High School was a set of lies. If you was not serious why put it out there, then same Agriculture took down information and still nothing. Please tell me in 2023 what route should i take, because you can do your investigations and believe me alot of them need to give back government there money, who never drop a fishing line in the sea waters or did any farming, besides having pots on their porch, set of crooks got stimulus and the real farmers and fishers was cut.

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