While government is still to make public how much is the equivalent of its share of fifty percent towards ministers’ health insurance, it has revealed that nearly $100M was spent in three years on medical expenses by the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration.
“In 2012, from the public’s purse, some $37.138M (was) spent and then in 2013 $9.732M and then in 2014, Mr. Speaker some $47.2M,” Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence told the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Lawrence had been asked by PPP/C MP Juan Edghill how much the APNU+AFC government had spent on dental bills from its taking office in May 2015 to the June 2018 period and she gave not only her government’s figure but compared it to a similar three-year period for the PPP/C.
“Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report to this Honourable House that of June 2015, no request was made to the public funds for a medical coverage nor dental for any of our ministers. The same thing happened in 2016, again, there is a nil, in June of 2018, there is a nil; however for 2017 prior to us signing onto the insurance company, some $2.404M was spent,” she said.
She explained that government, holding to its stance that the public treasury should not be burdened by the medical expenses of ministers, sought to obtain insurance coverage where it would pay half of the premiums and the ministers the other half. “It was just about a year after we took office that the Cabinet was apprised of expenditures incurred previously for medical and other expenses. And we took the decision to begin a search which would look at various insurance companies that can be able to provide insurance coverage for members of Cabinet and ministers and their families, should they wish that so that we do not place a burden on the public funds as transpired in years previous,” she said.
Pressed by Edghill on what the insurance bill for government amounted to, Lawrence said that she did not have it at hand but would make it available to him when she does. “Mr. Speaker, at this time I do not have that figure but I can assure this House that at our next sitting I will provide that information,” she said.
She explained that the premiums varied per minister as they were based on the insurance company’s medical assessment of the insured person.
The insurance company’s premium, according to Lawrence, is deducted monthly from the salaries of the ministers.
In the months leading up to the 2015 General and Regional Elections, APNU and the AFC, then on the opposition benches, had bemoaned what they called the PPP/C’s “haemorrhaging” of monies from the public coffers on their teeth and other “narcissistic” and “vanity medical procedures”. It said that such practices needed to stop as ordinary Guyanese who are faced with large medical bills are being turned away from government offices when they seek public aid.
The two parties said then that the levels to which the disparity between the ordinary Guyanese and this elite group of PPP/C ministers and their friends had reached was obscene and used the message as a campaign issue, even as they called for the public to “condemn this blatant abuse of the tax dollars”.
It said that APNU and the AFC were committed to responsible and equitable distribution of funds for medical procedures for all Guyanese and also to a comprehensive overhaul of the healthcare system.