Less than one week after insurance companies asked the Insurance Commission to allow them to invest in U.S. funds, a leading businessman is calling for a lifting of similar restrictions on the consumer, declaring that Bahamians should be allowed to seek coverage from companies outside the jurisdiction.
“The laws that govern how and where Bahamians can obtain health and life insurance hurt the average middle class Bahamian the most,” said real estate pioneer and social entrepreneur Mario Carey. “The insurance companies want the right to invest abroad and I believe as Bahamians we should have the right to seek health and whole life insurance abroad.”
Carey’s comments came in the wake of news that a leading underwriter was seeking an exemption to the insurance regulations that forbid Bahamian insurance providers from investing in foreign entities.
“I understand the good intention of those restrictions given the failure of one insurer whose holdings outside The Bahamas brought the company down, but while there are lessons to be learned from that, the consumer need not be punished because of it. We should insist on insurance rights, including the right to seek competitive rates, terms and provisions, just as the wealthy who have more than one address can do, or large businesses with numerous holdings that may be registered elsewhere do.”
Carey, who founded Better Homes and Gardens MCR Bahamas and is CEO of Mario Carey Ventures, enterprises aimed at social entrepreneurship, said current policies are especially hard on caregivers of elderly parents or offspring with special needs. His adult son registers on the high end of Asperger’s, the highest functioning form of the autism spectrum and Carey worries about how he will be cared for.
“As it stands now, a policy dies when the policyholder passes away, so for the policyholder who predeceases his or her parents, who is going to cover the health insurance costs if the policyholder is no longer alive? Who is going to provide the health care coverage for a child who is severely disabled and needs frequent, expensive medical attention if the health insurance policy is only good as long as the original policyholder lives and breathes, even if they bought it primarily to protect their loved ones? Do they go to their grave knowing they have left someone imperiled with no life boat to grab hold of?”
The answer, Carey believes, is twofold – allow funds to buy policies so the policy continues to live so long as the fund exists. Secondly, he says, allow Bahamians to shop and compare.
“We don’t force people to buy cars only from Bahamian auto dealers, why should we require Bahamians to buy health insurance – one of the most significant investments you will ever make – only in The Bahamas? While everything else around us has changed, we’ve been doing insurance the same way in The Bahamas since the middle of the last century,” said Carey. “I think it’s time we take a good look at the industry, how it serves clients, what we can do to improve it. There are some serious questions we need to ask. How do we ensure client rights? What we can learn from other places where there is a more liberal policy as to who can own a policy? In other places, a policy can be purchased by or through a fund that holds it and it provides options for the beneficiary or insured.”
Carey said he is far from alone in urging a more responsive insurance industry.
“We all know someone who is complaining about fighting for their rights to get a claim paid or a policy reinstated, even a policy they may have paid on for 20 years but had to let lapse to put food on the table during COVID-19 when they were out of work,” said Carey.
Carey, who has enjoyed a successful career in real estate closing in on $2 billion in transactions, has devoted much of the last two years to finding solutions for a host of issues. Also on the drawing table – a regional disaster recovery centre in southwest New Providence that would transform the former Bacardi plant and its 100,000 square feet of enclosed space into a readiness launching pad from which everything from helicopters to generators, tents to nonperishables can be sent as disaster strikes, saving time and lives.
“Look around you,” says Carey. “Everything has changed over the last 20 years, the phone you are using, the computer you are typing or designing on, even the way you get your news. Yet insurance, one of the most important basics of a well-planned life, has remained much the same as it was 50 years ago except that you may get your statement by email. It’s time to take a look, a serious look and see how we can bring it into the 21st century.”