Police Welfare Association says current medical insurance doesn’t follow the law

by Carlena Knight

[email protected]

A more comprehensive medical cover plan is what the Police Welfare Association (PWA) says it is lobbying the government.

Corporal Marilyn Harris, President of the PWA, explained that while there is extensive medical insurance in place, they do not have comprehensive coverage.

Harris has repeatedly said the agency has had to use its own coffers to help lawyers seek medical care for specific issues because the current insurance plan is insufficient.

“We would have submitted proposals outlining exactly what we want and our comprehensive medical insurance; we’ll stick to that because we don’t have one.

‘We would have said we’re so tired of spending ourselves, going to the doctors, spending our money and not being able to get reimbursed,’ she told Observer AM yesterday.

“When we met our minister we said minister we need our full insurance please give us our insurance card so when we go to get services we will have our card and everything will be paid 100% by the government as required by law. This has not been done.

“Over the years nothing like this has been done so we keep paying our money. Sometimes it takes three years to get paid back or some of us will die in service without being paid back.

“Our receipts are in the public purse and we are not being reimbursed,” Harris said.

The PWA’s executive branch appeared on Tuesday’s Observer AM program to clarify statements made by Legal Affairs Minister Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin during his Monday budget presentation.

The Minister used a small part of his time to respond to the association’s previous claims regarding medical insurance.

Benjamin said the body’s claims were “irresponsible and flatly inaccurate”, particularly with regard to medical insurance which he said has been in place for decades. This, he said, was corroborated by the state insurance company in a letter dated February 11, 2022.

He added that these policies are still in effect and that several payments have been made recently.

But the PWA also spoke of a Cabinet announcement dated July 7, 2021, which stated that officers who use a physician other than the prescribed practitioner stationed at the Maple Southwell-Walter Medical Clinic at police headquarters would not be not reimbursed.

The same goes for agents seeking dental services other than tooth cleaning and extraction.

But the PWA’s second vice-president, Corporal Sylvester George, said it was a cause for concern because the law says officers must have “100 per cent coverage”.

He added that the doctor at the clinic is not “a specialist doctor and therefore officers are at a disadvantage when seeking medical assistance”.

It is for these reasons that the PWA reiterates its call for additions to its medical insurance, to include items such as eye exams, comprehensive dental services and other medical examinations.

During his presentation of the budget speech, Benjamin said discussions were underway to increase coverage of other medical screenings for employees such as “gynecologists and urologists, and cancer screenings” and “should be finalized and implemented by the beginning of the third quarter of 2022”.

Meanwhile, the PWA also continues to push for risk allocation and improvements in general working conditions. They urged the government to respond to these questions as well.

However, the organization is committed to continuing its duty to serve and protect the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

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