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Bermuda's Senior Citizens compared with others worldwide

They pay the world's highest healthcare, hospitalization and prescriptions costs but get lowest social security

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

Senior citizens

line drawing

Bermuda, only 21 miles in total land area,  is nevertheless rated by the World Bank as having the fifth-highest per capita income in the world. But Bermuda's seniors get merely a small fraction of the healthcare, hospitalization, prescription and social security pensions and other benefits of the less-affluent other countries such as the USA, Canada, Britain, etc.

Visitors to Bermuda who are over 65 are not eligible for discounts at any stores or public transportation (buses and ferries), as they are on presentation of their passports or other acceptable forms of ID when visiting and traveling through most of Europe and beyond 

Statistics for Bermuda senior citizens indicate: 

What local senior citizens get free or at a discount from the Bermuda Government

If over 65 and resident in Bermuda

What local senior citizens don't get from the Bermuda Government

Seniors

Healthcare - no equivalent of UK NHS or USA Medicare or Medicaid. Bermuda's senior citizens do not get any of the free or subsidized age-related health and/or hospitalization and prescription benefits given by the UK, most of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.  In the UK and Ireland, seniors who need general medical, hospital and prescription services are included in the National Health Service at no additional cost, as part of the taxes they pay. Instead, locals must pay significantly more than even citizens and residents of the USA. Bermuda has no UK-like National Health Service and no US-like Medicare (see  http://www.medicare.gov) or Medicaid, see https://www.hhs.gov/answers/medicare-and-medicaid/who-is-eligible-for-medicaid/index.html or any Obama-care (the USA's Affordable Care Act 2013. US residents thus get an effective cap on their health insurance costs and generally pay no more than about $320 a month. The equivalent cost to Bermuda senior citizens for similar services and prescriptions is at least $850 and very possibly $1100 month

In Bermuda, newcomers and residents who are either unemployed retirees and/or no longer covered by any employers under Bermuda Healthcare employment provisions have very few options, only three choices, namely:

Bermuda Hospital charges currently. See http://www.bermudahospitals.bm/bhb/patient-visitor-info/fees-regulations.asp

No Long Term Health Care Insurance. Some retired seniors spend thousands of dollars out of their own funds for heart or stroke or other specialist hospitals in the USA. If/when they had major medical benefits through their employers when they were employed, it stopped when they retired. Oddly, among the thousands of insurance companies incorporated and registered in Bermuda but operating abroad and not allowed by law to participate in the Bermuda market and compete with local insurers, there are many companies offering long-term health care insurance in places such as Britain, UK, etc.

Cost of Living. Overall, the cost of living in Bermuda for seniors is 380% higher than in the USA and 280% higher than in Canada and the UK

Driver's Licenses restrictions for senior citizens (over 65). Only in Bermuda, not in the UK or in any other country overseas, persons aged between 65-74 years who drive and have Bermuda Driver's Licences require a medical and competency certificate every third year and those 75 years or older require an annual medical and competency certificate. To renew your licence you must have a medical examination by a locally registered medical practitioner. 

No subsidized modifications to homes for seniors and disabled. In the USA, UK, Canada, Europe, etc. financial assistance to seniors in need is routinely available, but not in Bermuda. No tax benefits/concessions exist here. More than 90% of all Bermuda private homes do not yet have all these features, yet about 15% of all Bermuda residents are seniors, some very frail and liable to fall. Many need, and if they can afford it, have to pay for:

No or only token financial assistance for senior citizens. Bermuda's Financial Assistance Act does not apply to the majority of seniors and the permanently disabled who own property or part of a property or have some form of income. If you own or co-own or are a part-owner of a car, any property, any insurance, any monetary asset, you are deemed ineligible. Other countries - like the USA, Canada and UK - are far more generous to their seniors. In the USA for example, minor improvements and repairs to homes to help senior citizens adapt their homes to met their ever-increasing disability or mobility-impairment needs can cost between $150 and $2,000. There, Many home remodeling contractors offer reduced rates or sliding-scale fees based on income and ability to pay. Public and private financing options may also be available.

No Employment Equality (Age) Regulations. No equivalent in Bermuda to the UK's regulations which from October 1, 2006 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees, trainees or job seekers because of their age. (They  ensure that all workers, regardless of age, have the same rights in terms of training and promotion). In the UK, workers do not have to cease their public sector or private sector jobs at age 60 or 65. But in Bermuda they do.

Ageing and Disability Services Office

Continental Building, 25 Church Street, Hamilton HM12.  Phone (441) 292-7802 or (441) 298-4900. Fax (441) 292-9125. The Bermuda Government regulatory agency for seniors and disabled. A department of the Ministry of Health and Family Services, the remit of which is health and welfare for all in Bermuda.

Banking

On application and with appropriate verification such as a Special Persons ID, Bermuda seniors may be eligible to receive some special local banking services and discounts. Benefits, depending on bank, may include:

Caregivers

Caregivers (as they are called, American-style in Bermuda) currently have no protection under any legislation in Bermuda, such as the UK's Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 as amended. No study has ever been done to date in Bermuda on the hidden cost of care-giving (caring). It is estimated that perhaps 8% of locals, or 5,120, provide the care so vital to helping the approximately 15% of the people of Bermuda who are senior citizens or disabled remain in their homes and community settings. One reason may be that because of the huge prices of local housing and services, space for inactive seniors who cannot pay their way is at a premium in this very materialistic society of only 21 square miles where demand is vastly more than supply and rents to non-family members can bring in enough income to more than pay a monthly mortgage or provide much-needed income to a senior citizen. 

Charter of Rights for Seniors

2019. July 11. See http://www.royalgazette.com/assets/pdf/RG405863711.pdf - a “landmark achievement” for Bermuda, Premier David Burt has said: “Three overachieving themes drive the charter we have signed — dignity, rights and responsibilities. As a society, we should be judged by how we take care of our most vulnerable. He was speaking at the signing of the Bermudian charter of the rights and responsibilities of the elderly and adults in need of long-term care and assistance. The charter includes ten articles, including the right to dignity, physical and mental wellbeing, freedom and security; the right to self-determination and the right to high-quality and tailored care. The government has stated the document was developed based on international and Bermudian standards and had been adapted from the European charter of the rights and responsibilities of older people in need of long-term care and assistance. Mr Burt said that “significant input” had been provided by the Ministry of Health to make sure the charter would “complement existing regimes as intended”. The Government’s goal is to “recognise and respect the rights of people who became more dependant on others due to ageing, illness or disability, and to ensure they lead lives of dignity and independence”.  Mr Burt signed the document with Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker and chairman of the Ageing Well Committee, and Molly Burgess, who represented Bermuda’s seniors. The Premier said Ms Burgess was a “champion of the rights of workers and all people in this country”. He added: “It is only right that her decades of fearless service are marked in this way.”

Costs of Living for seniors, especially after retirement

Bermudians and residents over 65 years old are the most likely to be deeply affected by cost-of-living increases. Most private-sector employers (public sector employees may apply for continued employment) expect their employees to retire when 65. Bermuda has no legislation similar to the UK, etc. that has eradicated forced retirement after pensionable age. Only Government departments or quangos qualify for longer employment). When this happens the retired employees of that age may be forced to discontinue their hugely valuable 50% employer-provided but still very expensive health and hospitalization coverage and either seek alternative employment if they can find it or begin paying it 100% themselves, without any employer-provided subsidy, for a lower quality and more restricted private individual medical  and hospitalization plan.

Electricity

Hugely expensive for seniors, especially if they live in a house with a family. Some seniors pay more than $400 a month.

Grace Rejuvenation Senior Activity Center

Senior Day activities and services, some unique to Bermuda.

National Pension Scheme Act and corporate Pension plans, not Social Insurance

2019. November 20. National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Amendment Act 2019. Legislation that will allow employees to take out a quarter of their private pensions as a lump sum on retirement was passed by MPs on Friday. The will now require non-Bermudian workers to pay into their occupational pension, along with self-employed workers. Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, told the House of Assembly that there was concern that the need to make pension contributions for Bermudian but not for non-Bermudian workers had affected employment opportunities for Bermudians because the situation made it cheaper to employ overseas workers. Mr Dickinson said: “We have tried to, in our work here, be very balanced in our approach to ensure that we are not causing undue stress on employers while, at the same time, being mindful that we want to promote the culture of self-sufficiency and so encouraging people to provide for themselves in their later years by saving during the years they are earning income.” Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs, said that the One Bermuda Alliance supported the draw down part of the Bill. But he feared that the ability to do so could deprive people of a “rainy day fund later”. Mr Pearman said: “That risk will fall upon the community as a whole. So we need to map out what happens when that happens.” He said that a requirement for non-Bermudians to pay into an occupational pension fund was “thorny” and would “increase the cost of doing business in Bermuda”. He added: “Making Bermuda more expensive is not a good idea because it will lead to job losses.” Mr Pearman said that small and medium-sized businesses would be hit hardest by the change. He added: “It is those Bermudian employers who are now going to have to dig into their pockets.” David Burt, the Premier, said the legislation would not be popular among companies that had a majority of non-Bermudian staff. He added: “It’s not only the right change, but it makes sense to put Bermudians on an equal playing field with non-Bermudians.” Mr Burt also reiterated that the Government hoped to bring some of the $3 billion invested into the pension scheme back into Bermuda by allowing employees to access a portion of their funds for specific investments. He said: “We believe that people should be trusted with their money. If you like it where it is, leave it where it is."

See the Bermuda Government's The Pension Commission, at http://www.pensioncommission.bm/. Not Social Security (see separately), but private pension plans. The National Pension Scheme Act 1999 became effective on 1st January 2000. All employers, whether local or international or exempted must comply, for every employee whether Bermudian or a non-Bermudian spouse of a Bermudian of from 23 years of age who works a minimum of 720 hours per calendar year. Employers may, however, offer more generous eligibility provisions to employees by allowing them to become members of their pension plan at an earlier age and with fewer numbers of hours worked. While 65 for men and women is when those eligible in Bermuda will get Social Security, private pension plans can be more generous and in lesser age as well. Note that the Act specifies private pensions only for Bermudian and international or exempted company employers employing Bermudians or non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians. There is no requirement to establish pension plans for guest workers, which may come as a shock to the latter. Non-Bermudian employees should ask local and international companies and or the Bermuda Government employing them what, if anything, they offer as private pension plans or equivalent, so they know where they stand and what they can expect to take with them when they leave Bermuda.

For those who qualify under the Act for pension eligibility, the pension scheme (plan) can be offered only by approved local insurance companies, not the "exempted" or "international" variety registered in Bermuda but not "corporate citizens" as they are often referred to, inaccurately.  

The Act removed many of the anomalies and restrictions that since the 1970s for "approved private pension plans" had existed in some with 15 or more years service but had severely restricted or totally excluded others, for example all those with say 12 years service with the same employer by retirement age. The current Act creates some portability for plans of all employers and employees. But for some people close to retirement age when it came into effect, it was far too late to ensure that once they become senior citizens and retire from working, they will have an adequate income without hardship. 

Minimum contribution rates are based on pensionable earnings per year.  At January 14, 2012 Approved Pension Plan Administrators under the Act were:

When private corporate pensions are offered, they are in addition to the Government administered Contributory Pensions plan shown below in "Social Security."

Real Estate

Many elderly Bermudians and some non-Bermudian residents need to sell their homes to fund living in a purpose-built retirement facility for senior citizens. They have no other options such as reverse mortgages in the USA and their UK or Canadian equivalents. A reverse mortgage in the USA is a way to get money out of your home without having to leave it. It is a loan against the equity built up in the home that is repaid with interest when the owner dies or leaves or sells the property. In the USA, homeowners must be 62 or older and on the main residence only. There is no equivalent of a reverse mortgage in Bermuda.

There is a chronic shortage of affordable integrated-care premises for seniors who do not but can live independently without assistance and those who need assisted living arrangements. Costs are hugely expensive. Many locals cannot afford them and may live in very inadequate conditions. Most seniors prefer to be independent for as long as possible. The concept of  an extended family having live-in matriarchs and patriarchs being honored in their declining years has disappeared in Bermuda. Some spouses, unable to look after their husbands or wives, have put them into care or retirement homes if they can afford it. 

Resources from beyond Bermuda for senior citizens

Please note that this file deals only with facilities and services in Bermuda, not overseas. We do not show any resources beyond Bermuda because most, if not all, do not apply in Bermuda which is not in the UK or USA and has its own laws. Senior-citizen-related websites from those countries often advertise they offer free or low-cost services. But they invariably apply in their own countries only. If Bermuda residents qualify to order them and their locally issued credit cards are accepted by suppliers they will have to bear the cost of shipping or air freight and pay Bermuda Customs import duty. 

Residential and day-care homes and nursing homes for the elderly 

See under this heading in "Employers. "

Under the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act 1999 and the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Regulations 2001.  There are various categories of residential care available for seniors, many of whom are also fragile and vulnerable, with skins like tissue paper and bones like porcelain. An evaluation is normally required to determine which type of home is  appropriate.

Senior Abuse Register

Instituted to help stop abuse to seniors.

Social insurance/security payouts to Bermuda's senior citizens

Equivalent to Social Security in USA but the major difference is that in the USA Social Security recipients can qualify for it after 10 years but in Bermuda about 20 years are needed to qualify.

A Bermuda average monthly payout is about $1,000.  In contrast, a typical US Social Security payment is about $1500, in a jurisdiction with a hugely lower cost of living than in Bermuda.

Began in 1972. (In contrast, in the United Kingdom the Old Age Pensions Act was enacted on August 1, 1908). In Bermuda, this means solely a senior citizens' pension from the Bermuda Government via a compulsory contributory pensions plan administered by the Government for all employees of private sector employers, with employers and individual employees employed for more than four (4) hours a week each paying 50% of the premium. It pays benefits to qualifying retirees. The Contributory Pensions plan, its proper name, is a pension social security plan for people who contribute to it. It is their entitlement, not a charity. It is not confined to only Bermudian employees. Non Bermudian employees are required to be covered as well and are as entitled to the benefits they accrue under the plan's provisions, providing they contribute for a minimum number of years (approximately 20, with no or very few gaps in monthly payments per year to the Contributory Pension plan). 

People who qualify but live abroad

Many Bermudians and others who once lived and worked in Bermuda but are now resident in and/or citizens of the UK, Canada, USA presently receive when qualified their Contributory Pension payments, not directly via the Department of Social Insurance in Bermuda via their banks but via the UK's once-public now private Crown Agents Bank,- see https://www.crownagents.com. Does the Crown Agents Bank also charge the Department of Social Insurance for this service? This is not yet known. What is known is that for pensioners living in the UK, the Crown Agents Bank there charges a monthly commission to all individual pension recipients. Of concern to them is how how and why he Crown Agents Bank has now increased that commission enormously. Until  10 June 2019 this commission was £60 a year or £5 per pension payment. But in a letter to UK-based pensioners dated 11 June 2019  the Crown Agents Bank stated this has now than doubled for some recipients and tripled for others. For all those who get their pensions in US$, the commission has risen from $ 9.50 to $19.50 a month, a more than 100% increase For all who get their pensions in £ sterling, their monthly commission per pension payment  has risen from £5 to £15, a 300% increase. It has been reported that these latest commission rates totally wipe out the recent modest Bermuda Government Contributory Pensions increases.  

Contributory Pensions payments required by government from employers and employees

From April 1, 2019. Current deductions from wages or salaries apply under section 4 of the Contributory Pensions Act 1970. See chart below. Source: see http://www.bermudalaws.bm/laws/Consolidated%20Laws/Contributory%20Pensions%20Act%201970.pdf 

In the 2018 Throne Speech, the Government announced that Bermuda’s social insurance system will be changed from a fixed-rate contribution to one based on a percentage of income. Contribution increases will be delayed until the actuary completes the modelling to effect this policy objective.

Category of insured person Payable weekly by Employee in BD$ Payable weekly by Employer in BD$ Total
Employed person over school leaving age and under 65  $35.92 $35.92 $71.84
Employed persons over 65  -   $35.92
Self-employed persons over school leaving age and under 65  $71.84 - $71.84
Self-employed persons over 65 $35.92 - $35.92

There is a Contributory Pensions Appeal Tribunal. See Bermuda Government Boards.

NB: When private corporate pensions are offered, they are in addition to the Government administered Contributory Pensions plan shown above.

Social Security payouts compared, by country

Based on 2018 world statistics made available to this researcher. All converted to USD for a fair comparison. Amounts shown represent number of dollars paid monthly to senior citizen residents of the countries concerned. Note how Bermuda compares,

Australia $$$$$ Bermuda $ Canada $$ Denmark $$$$ Finland $$$$ France $$$$
Germany $$$$ Ireland $$$ Italy $$ Japan $$$ Liechtenstein $$$$$ Luxembourg $$$$$
Monaco $$$$$ Netherlands $$$$$ Norway $$$ Spain $$ Sweden $$$ Switzerland $$$$$
United Kingdom $$$ USA $$$$$        

Social Security payouts by country per capita Income

Based on 2018 statistics

Australia $$$ Bermuda $$$$$ Canada $$$ Denmark $$$ Finland $$$ France $$$
Germany $$$ Ireland $$$ Italy $$$ Japan $$$ Liechtenstein $$$$$ Luxembourg $$$$$
Monaco $$$$$ Netherlands $$$ Norway $$$ Spain $$$ Sweden $$$ Switzerland $$$$
United Kingdom $$$ United States of America $$$$        

Countries with highest per capita income in the world are, in order of wealth, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Bermuda, Switzerland (not USA as commonly assumed, it merely has the world's biggest economy). The first four countries, despite their small size geographically, are all major international business centres and tax havens. This yields the greater part of their revenue, far more than tourism. In  Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Monaco, they make a point of ensuring their elderly citizens get a significant share of their international business and tax haven revenues to correspond with their social welfare needs.

Social Security by country for healthcare and hospitalization costs included in taxes

Based on 2018 statistics

Australia $$$$$ Bermuda - no Canada $$$$$ Denmark $$$$$ Finland $$$$$ France $$$$$
Germany $$$$$ Ireland $$$$$ Italy $$$$$ Japan $$$$$ Liechtenstein $$$$$ Luxembourg $$$$$
Monaco $$$$$ Netherlands $$$$$  Norway $$$$$ Spain $$$$$ Sweden $$$$$ Switzerland $$$$$
United Kingdom $$$$$ United States of America $$        

Social Security by country medical prescriptions included in taxes

Based on 2018 statistics

Australia $$$$$ Bermuda  - none Canada $$$$$ Denmark $$$$$ Finland $$$$$ France $$$$$
Germany $$$$$ Ireland $$$$$ Italy $$$$$ Japan $$$$$ Liechtenstein $$$$$ Luxembourg $$$$$
Monaco $$$$$ Netherlands $$$$$ Norway $$$$$ Spain $$$$$ Sweden $$$$$ Switzerland $$$$$
United Kingdom $$$$$ United States of America $$        

In the UK and most of Europe, free prescriptions automatically without limit to all over 60s and qualified others  with medically-confirmed qualifying condition such as diabetes, heart problems, asthma, thyroid. (In USA, mostly under Medicare. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare law on July 30, 1965, and 11 months later seniors had coverage. President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010), still in effect despite presidential changes since then. Nearest Bermuda has is $1,000 Annual Prescription Drug Benefit to all seniors - over the age of 65, not 60 - providing they have local Government-provided Hospital Insurance Plan (HIP) insurance, costing some of them over $500 a month.

Veterans 

In Bermuda, there are no retirement homes or hospitals specifically for World War veterans. Some Bermuda veterans have had to pay more than $100,000 out of their own money if they have it to overseas hospitals for operations, owing to a lack of affordable medical insurance in Bermuda. If they don't have the funds and can't strike a deal with the LCCA to borrow the money, they don't get treated overseas.

Timeline of Legislative and other changes or concerns or factors affecting seniors

2020. March 16. Seniors were warned to find ways of distancing themselves, even from loved ones, as the coronavirus pandemic appears to hit elderly patients with health problems worst. Charles Jeffers, the honorary director of Age Concern, said last night that seniors should consider “saying to their children and grandchildren, I know you love me — but it might be better if you didn’t come by”. Claudette Fleming, the executive director of the charity, has been in regular contact with Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, as the pandemic unfolded globally. Mr Jeffers said: “Our stance has to be more reaction than action. All we can do as a preventive is to practise social-distancing and even have people not visit. If a senior knows their immune system has been compromised, call their families and advise that maybe they ought to make their contact by telephone or WhatsApp and social media. What can you do? With some diseases, it takes bodily contact. This does not. You can just be in the same space and pick it up.” The BBC reported yesterday that the Health Secretary in Britain, Matt Hancock, had said announcements were coming advising every Briton aged 70 and older to stay at home long-term to protect themselves. Mr Jeffers called the prospect “a very, very sad thing”, but said the elderly needed to “take stock of their situation. The key thing is being aware of your surroundings,” he said. “You might have to tell someone not to visit you, and to call on the phone instead.”

2020. March 11. Department of Social Insurance benefits have increased by 1.2% effective August 16th 2019. Therefore benefits to be paid on Friday, March 13th 2020 will represent the new monthly amount plus the retroactive payment for the period August 16th 2019 to February 15th 2020. The benefit amount to be paid on April 15th 2020 will be the new monthly amount for all beneficiaries. For persons soon to be of pension age and provided that the Department has the correct contact details, you will receive in the mail an invitation to apply for a pension benefit two months before your 65th birthday. Should you have any questions, please contact the Department: Telephone: 441-292-9242 Email: SIBenefits@gov.bm In-person: Ground Floor Government Administration Building, Parliament Street, Hamilton.

2020. January 30. A new interest-free loan scheme will put cash in the hands of seniors, the head of charity for the elderly said yesterday. Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern, predicted that the $500,000 government-backed loan scheme for seniors would make it easier for older and infirm people to remain in their own homes. Dr Fleming said that the elderly were often discriminated against when they sought a bank loan. She explained: “It’s difficult. They don’t have a means of income to pay it back. With this ... it’s more of a likelihood that they will be able to get these funds.” Dr Fleming was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, announced that the funds had been earmarked for the new programme. Mr Burt said that families would be eligible to apply for interest-free loans of up to $15,000 for renovations to help seniors continue to live in their homes. He added: “We believe that after a lifetime of hard work to secure their homes, seniors should not have to face the prospect of re-encumbering that asset, or even surrendering it, in instances where some basic modification can see them live out those special years in familiar and comfortable surroundings.” Mr Burt added: “The simple installation of bathroom fixtures, ramps and railings can make living at home more accessible for seniors.” He said that fixtures and fittings for that type of upgrade would be duty free. Dr Fleming added that the loan scheme had less “formality” than the process through a bank. She added: “It’s more of a social community feel — and that’s why we wanted to be involved.” The loans will be provided through the Bermuda Housing Corporation, in conjunction with Age Concern. Dr Fleming said that the charity would help with the “social aspects” of the loan assessment. She added: “The BHC will deal with the financial aspect.” Dr Fleming said that it was difficult to say how many seniors were in need of a loan. But she added: “We’ll find out from this programme. That’s another reason why we’re involved — to collect the social data.” Dr Fleming said that the programme could also help to ease demand on care homes for seniors. She explained: “There is a limited amount of beds that are in the community. I think it’s responsible to look at people’s homes first to see if they can be retrofitted for long-term care assistance.” Dr Fleming added that “most” seniors preferred to remain in their homes. Mr Burt said that the loan application form created by the BHC was “easy” and was available on the corporation’s website and at the BHC headquarters on Church Street in Hamilton. He added: “The applications will be subject to a basic assessment by Age Concern’s team to verify the proposed modifications, and thereafter processed quickly so that work can begin. We will work with seniors and families at the front end to ensure the repayment of the loans is manageable and regular.” Mr Burt said that the loan scheme, a pledge made in the summer of 2018, “speaks to our values as a government”. He added: “It speaks to our belief that we have to listen to our people and be strong enough to ensure that every Bermudian that needs a handup gets a handup.” The Premier said that the $500,000 set aside for the loans could be increased in the future “if necessary”. He added that the loans would be issued “in good faith”. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, encouraged anyone who could benefit from a loan to apply.

2019. September 12. The island’s seniors advocacy group remains resolute despite suffering its worst financial year for two decades. Age Concern revealed “a challenging year” for fundraising, with a deficit of $107,804 for the year ending March 31, 2019. The financials were unaudited, but Tracey Pitt, the treasurer, said its numbers were “pretty much in the ballpark”. Ms Pitt said yesterday that the last fiscal year’s revenues added up to $655,903 while expenses stood at $763,707. Claudette Fleming, the executive director, told the group’s annual meeting: “In my 19 years at Age Concern, we’ve had $100,000 deficits before. This has probably been the hardest year for our organisation. Cash flows remain positive and we have met all our bills, but we have experienced this very significant loss.” Dr Fleming added: “The philanthropic and economic landscape continues to shift. Companies and individuals are uncertain about their economic futures. As a result, they are hesitant to come to assist.” With the island’s senior population on the rise, Dr Fleming said the group had 4,848 members at last count — making it “the largest membership organisation on the island”. Charles Jeffers, the deputy chairman of Age Concern, said membership fees would increase in 2020 from $25 to $35 a year for persons aged 50 to 64, and from $25 to $28 for those aged 65 to 79, with seniors over the age of 80 retaining complimentary membership. New members will also be subjected to a $15 sign-up fee. Mr Jeffers told the gathering at the Evangelical Church Hall in Paget: “Think very clearly, give what you can, and make sure that this organisation stays afloat.” Linda Smith, the chairwoman, said the group’s board had also agreed on restructuring, switching from a maximum of 14 and a minimum of 11 members to a range of 11 and seven. Mr Jeffers was presented with an award for longstanding service, along with Ottiwell Simmons, the former MP and president of the Bermuda Industrial Union. Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, delivered the keynote speech, describing his work with the sub-committee tasked by the Labour Advisory Council with raising the compulsory retirement age in the Civil Service. Legislation approved this year raised the compulsory retirement age from 65 to 68 for certain public offices. The group’s report also called for raising the mandatory retirement age to 70 over the next ten years. Mr Hayward predicted that businesses would follow suit. “This is an important milestone that sets the tenor for what is to come in the private sector.” The senator said that the island’s human rights legislation needed to be bolstered to protect seniors from age discrimination in the workplace. Mr Hayward added: “There are now more employees in the workforce who are 65 and older than ever before.” Seniors who wished to continue working should be “afforded every opportunity to do so”, he said. (Note, the Bermuda Government recently enacted legislation to allow Government employees to work after 65, but has not extended this to the private sector. In contrast, in the UK, as part of the Equality Act 2010, all persons now have the right to work in their present jobs after 65).

2019. August 20. An unannounced charge for ID cards for seniors sparked complaints yesterday about government communication. A senior in his seventies, said the ID cards, used to get seniors free public transportation, were once issued at no cost but will now have an $8.11 fee slapped on them. The senior, who asked not to be named, found out about the charge this month when he went to get a new driving licence and renew his ID card. He said: “The driving licence was free, but the senior’s card cost $8.11. What I found strange was that my new driver’s licence was free. Why charge for one and not the other?” The man, from Pembroke, said that the charge did not create a financial problem for him, but that it was “another bill for seniors to pay”. He added that the pass had been free for 11 years and he had not been told of any changes to the policy until he went to get a new pass after he changed address. A spokesman for the Transport Control Department said that an administrative fee of $8.11 was imposed at the start of June to cover the production costs of seniors’ ID cards. He added that the ID cards cost TCD $16.22 to produce but an internal audit ruled it was “foregone revenue”. But the tourism and transport ministry ordered the cost to be passed on to seniors. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport said that the $16.22 charge was halved for seniors by the Motor Car Act 1951, which entitled seniors to a 50 per cent reduction on all licence charges. She also confirmed that a public announcement on the change was not made and that seniors were told when they went to collect new ID cards. Charles Jeffers, the deputy chairman of senior advocacy group Age Concern Bermuda, said the failure to publicize the new charge was another example of a lack of government communication. He added that the extra expense, as well as a land-tax increase, which caused seniors to worry about how they would make ends meet after it was implemented this month, was a “great concern”. Mr Jeffers said: “We live in the communication age. The fact that we have to search and investigate for answers over changes to public fees and taxes is a problem. Sometimes an explanation is all that is needed.” Drivers’ licences for people aged over 65 will continue to be issued free of charge.

2019. August 15. Massive increases of up to $880 in six-month land tax bills have left seniors worried over how they will make ends meet. Seniors were shocked when they got their invoices which were much higher than six months ago. One homeowner told The Royal Gazette: “We opened up our land tax bill and noticed that it had gone up significantly. When I looked back at the last bill I saw it had gone up $887.50. We are over 65, way over, we do get $900 exemption but the increase has basically wiped out the exemption.” She added: “The Government needs to rethink this latest insult to the people of Bermuda.” The woman explained that she and her husband, of Devonshire, had earlier owned retail businesses in Hamilton and had always hired Bermudians. She said: “We have saved for our retirement and live on a very fixed income, just getting by, in this very expensive country.” The 76-year-old added: “We’ve done everything right, and now this. I have not taken anything from Government, ever.” Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, announced an annual $300 base charge on all homes in the 2019-20 Budget in February. The changes to land taxes, which are determined by annual rental values, also included zero rates on properties with ARVs up to $22,000. Fees on homes with ARVs between $44,001 and $90,000 jumped from 12 per cent to 17 per cent, and those in the next bracket, up to $120,000, increased from 25 per cent to 30 per cent when the new rates came into effect at the start of last month. Mr Dickinson said seniors would continue to get an exemption on properties with an ARV of $45,500 or less. The woman explained that the couple had earlier paid $2,130 in land tax on their home, which has an ARV of $81,000, and the most recent bill was for $3,017.50. She said: “We could barely pay the $2,000 and now we’re being asked to pay $3,000, how can someone on a fixed income afford that?” Her husband added: “The biggest problem with Bermuda right now is there’s not enough people to pay taxes and keep the country running, everybody’s got to pay more. We don’t have a problem with that, but I think they have to treat the seniors a little better.” Another woman said she was alarmed by the $150 surcharge on each of the four rental properties connected to her home. The 68-year-old, from Hamilton Parish, said she benefited from land tax relief on the apartment she lives in through the seniors’ exemption. But she said she covered the land taxes on her rented properties, only two of which are occupied, and that she tried to keep rents low in fairness to the tenants. The homeowner said: “As a black person, when you retire, real estate is the thing to have because you’ve got an income, you can’t live off the government pension, you save your money and you buy property. All my apartments rent for less than $2,000 because I try not to overcharge people but I still have to pay house insurance, land tax and things ... me and my husband won’t have enough money to live off. I know they say you can pass the land tax off to the tenants so now I’m wondering if I should go to rent control, get all my rents raised and pass all this money off to the tenants, which is unfair to them as well.” Age Concern Bermuda said that an explanation was needed for the $150 surcharge included in the latest bills and that better communication from the Government would have helped homeowners to plan their finances. Claudette Fleming, the organisation’s executive director, said a member alerted the organisation yesterday to the surcharge” which had “no definition or description” but appeared to be attached to the senior’s rental unit. She added she had contacted the finance ministry to ask for more information on the reason for the extra charge, but had yet to get a reply. Dr Fleming said: “The senior in question, also called the land tax department and they were unable to explain the nature of the surcharge.” A government spokeswoman confirmed that the $150 was the half-yearly installment of the $300 base charge introduced by Mr Dickinson in his Budget earlier this year. Dr Fleming added: “The devil is always in the details. There should be a description of the charge on the demand notice and a related communications plan to ensure that seniors in particular understand how the tax will be practically administered. In addition, language should be clear and consistent, for example ‘base charge’ is identified in the minister’s statement but the language ‘surcharge’ is used on the demand notice or invoice. Most of us won’t have connected the two, that is if we even recalled what the minister said way back in February. Mr Dickinson said in February that land tax was expected to raise $85.4 million in this financial year. Tax rates on homes with an ARV of between $22,001 and $44,000 remained unchanged and owners of properties with ARVs of more than $120,000 saw the rates rise from 47 to 50 per cent.

2019. August 10. Plans for a broader, cheaper standard health coverage package to encompass all the island’s residents were given a cautious welcome yesterday. Charles Jeffers, the deputy chairman of the seniors advocates Age Concern, called a proposal to revamp the Standard Health Benefit “long overdue”. Mr Jeffers said: “Age Concern has pushed for this for years. We need to get basic benefits under one banner and away from insurance companies dealing with the extras. If we don’t, there’s nothing to stop insurance rates continuing to go up. They are in the business of making money and satisfying their shareholders. If we have our basic benefits under one set of administrators, we stand to benefit. We are looking at this proposal closely, because a lot of pensions are being taken up with health insurance. We’re hoping the Government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to bring down costs.” The present coverage of the Standard Health Benefit has limited cover for doctors’ visits, prescription drugs or dental care. The revised benefits, tentatively planned to begin late in 2020, are anticipated to bring savings by combining residents in a single unified pool. However, a veteran industry insider, requesting not to be identified, predicted “heavy jobs losses” for the health insurance industry. He said: “A universal health programme means insurance benefits being taken over by the Government and taken out of the hands of private insurers. We are not the first country to do it — Bermuda is late to the universal health insurance game. But everything comes with pros and cons. Hopefully, it leads to coverage for everybody from the womb to the tomb. But the bad thing about universal insurance is it causes queues. Emergency care is pushed up the line. If you’re waiting on knee surgery, you can be pushed down the line. This is a known fact — it’s happened in every area where universal insurance has been implemented.” He questioned how it would be paid for: “Countries with universal health insurance have high taxes. All these things have to be factored in.” Mark Selley, the chairman of the Bermuda Healthcare Advocacy Group, was skeptical. He said the planned four-month consultation period was “not giving us enough time”. He added: “There’s no doubt that healthcare needs to be fixed, but I don’t think this is going to work the way the Ministry of Health is planning. Will this be a huge loss for the private insurers? The co-pay is not legislated at the moment. Will there be an uproar from doctors if the Government puts that control in place? There’s a lot of questions about this. We have not received any prior warning. Until we’re told more about how they intend to move this forward, we don’t have any idea how it will work.”

2019. July 8. Legislation to increase the mandatory retirement age for some civil servants - but not yet anyone in the private employment sector which via the Payroll tax on private employers is the Bermuda Government's single biggest source of income - has been tabled in the House of Assembly. The Public Service Superannuation Amendment Act 2019 would, if approved, change the compulsory retirement age from 65 to 68 for some public offices. Officials can also continue to work until they are 70, provided that they are deemed fit to continue by a doctor and the head of department every year. The legislation will not affect teachers, police officers, firefighters, prison officers and Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers. A Labour Advisory Committee report released this year called for the mandatory retirement age to be increased to 70 over the next ten years. The move was deemed necessary because of the increased pressure Bermuda’s ageing population had put on pension plans and public-sector finances. Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern and part of the group behind the report, previously voiced her support for such changes. She said: “A variety of industry leaders committed valuable time to consider the issue. The matter of the relevancy of the retirement age in our current existence has been left unresolved for many years.”

2019. May 11. The retirement age should be increased to 70 over a ten-year period, a Labour Advisory Committee report recommended yesterday. The report, tabled in the House of Assembly, said Bermuda’s ageing population had put pressure on pension plans and public sector finances. It also recommended that legislation should be amended or introduced to prevent discrimination against older employees and that a toolkit to help people prepare for retirement should be created. An LAC sub-committee compiled the Reviewing the Retirement Age report, which was tabled by David Burt, the Premier. The sub-committee recommended the creation of a single piece of legislation designed to:

Mr Burt told the House: “There is a need to stabilize pension funds, to allow working men and women the benefit of greater capacity to earn and therefore better prepare for their eventual retirement, and to use the longer life span in the modern era to the benefit of society and the people of Bermuda.” He said that a review of the mandatory retirement age of 65 for public service workers was a Throne Speech promise. Mr Burt added that he hoped the report would win cross-party support in the House and the Senate and that the Government could then return with amendments to the Public Service Superannuation Act to introduce some of the recommendations. The report pointed out that, except for public sector workers, there was no legislation that insisted employees retired at 65. But Mr Burt said that was “the generally accepted practice” in Bermuda and most people agreed to finish work at that age when they signed employment contracts. The National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 said that the “normal retirement date” was no more than a year after a pension plan member’s 65th birthday, unless an earlier date was set in the pension scheme. The sub-committee said the island’s ageing population had created “additional stress to public pension plans and public sector finances”. The report added: “Many persons who reach the retirement age are financially unprepared for retirement. The evidence clearly shows that there is a willingness from persons 65 and over to continue to work. Financial assistance outlays to seniors is extremely high and reinforces the point that a growing portion of our seniors are in dire need of additional financial resources.” The sub-committee said: “The reality is that if the problem is left unaddressed, the financial stress on individuals, pension plans and the Bermuda Government will grow.” It added that legislation should be created or amended to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace and to make sure people had equal rights in recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, training, work conditions and career development.

2019. February 16. A proposal that financial assistance could be clawed back from the estates of dead recipients would penalize families, the head of a charity said yesterday. Martha Dismont, the executive director of Family Centre, said the organisation feared a bid to take back payments “could be seen as making a judgment as to whether the applicant deserved the support”. She added: “The Government is obligated to care for the vulnerable, which inherently suggests they are deserving of the support, with the only condition being that, unless you are a senior or a disabled person, you must eventually be required to find your way to no longer needing the support. It feels unfair to penalize the family of a deceased applicant without knowing the extent to which the family had to assist the applicant prior to him or her reaching out to financial assistance.” Ms Dismont added: “A blanketed policy to recover assets seems completely unfair.” She was speaking after Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, flagged up the claw-back proposal in the House of Assembly as part of a bid to change the way financial aid is handled. Ms Wilson told MPs: “I would like to find ways for the Government to recover debt and or offset the cost of benefits through the property of deceased financial assistance recipients. As a country, we can no longer afford for the state to subsidies persons’ inheritances, as currently happens.” She said that a reform group had proposed 30 changes to financial assistance and that 17 had been accepted. These included a plan to ask the Attorney-General’s Chambers to provide “a legal opinion regarding whether a person who inherits a property from a senior who has benefited from financial assistance should be statutorily required to pay back some portion of the funds to Government”. Another accepted recommendation was to review policies in other countries to see if they recover financial benefits paid to elderly property owners. 

2019. January 18. Seniors are seeing a 1.4 per cent increase in their contributory pension benefits this month, backdated to August of last year. The increased payout, which is in line with inflation, would normally trigger a simultaneous increase in the mandatory contributions made by those of working age. However that increase is being delayed until August to allow time for the completion of an actuarial report on the Contributory Pension Fund that should be completed by the second quarter of this year, Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, said yesterday. The report will be a basis for a policy change for reform of the social insurance system, he added. “The 2018 increase in benefits would normally be accompanied by a corresponding increase in contributions by an actuarially recommended rate of 3.9 per cent,” Mr Dickinson said at a news conference in front of the Cabinet Office. “However, in the 2018 Throne Speech, we announced that Bermuda’s social insurance system will be changed from a fixed-rate contribution to one based on a percentage of income. Therefore, contribution increases will be delayed until the actuary completes the modelling to effect this policy objective.” Contributions were last increased in August 2018 by 4.2 per cent. “As at September 30, 2018, the fund had total assets of over $1.9 billion, representing approximately 11.7 times the annual value of benefits paid in the 2017-18 fiscal year,” Mr Dickinson said. “Considering the relatively strong position of the fund, it is anticipated that the fund can withstand the one year delay in contribution increases. However it is critical that the increased contributions come into force in August 2019.” A 2014 review of the fund projected that there would be nothing left by 2049 in a “best-case scenario”. Heather Thomas, the Auditor-General, has called for policy action to address the issue. Asked about the dire long-term outlook, Mr Dickinson said there would be an update with the publication of the actuarial report this year. He added that the Pension Reform Commission was looking was at “an early stage” of coming up with proposals on how to extend the fund’s life, which could include raising the retirement age. Mr Dickinson was joined at the event by a number of Progressive Labour Party parliamentary colleagues and seniors Valerie Dill and Esme Williams, who each expressed their gratitude for the increase in pension benefits. “The wellbeing of our seniors is very much a priority for this government and we want to make sure that as the cost of living increases, so do their benefits,” Mr Dickinson said.

2018. December 10. Seniors are expected to see an increase in their pensions after MPs backed a rise in payments. Legislators supported raising the amount by 1.4 per cent although Opposition members claimed the rate was “embarrassing”. Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, presented the Contributory Pensions (Amendments of Benefits) Order 2018 to the House of Assembly on Friday. He said: “This is a reflection of Government’s resolute and unwavering commitment to improve the quality of life of our senior citizens. You will recall in the Government’s 2017 election platform it was declared that this Government would put our seniors first and institute annual cost of living increases for social insurance pensions that will be linked to the rate of inflation and can help lessen the hardships that too many of our seniors now endure.” He said the Order was to increase pensions and other benefits under the Contributory Pensions Act 1970 by 1.4 per cent backdated to last August. Mr Dickinson said that represented an additional cost of $2.3 million a year for the fund. The House heard the basic contributory pension would rise from $1,049.68 to $1,064.37 a month, and the maximum paid out would increase from $1,531 to $1,545.62 a month. Mr Dickinson said it was the 12th pension increase by Progressive Labour Party governments since 1998. Members heard the consumer price index found cost of living had increased by 1.4 per cent since the last rise The minister said the increase in payments would normally be accompanied by a corresponding increase in contributions but this would be delayed until changes to Bermuda’s social insurance system — based on percentage of income — were laid out. Mr Dickinson said: “Contributions were last increased in August 2018 by 4.2 per cent. Considering the relatively strong position of the fund, it is anticipated that the fund can withstand the one-year delay in contribution increases. However, it is critical that the increased contributions come into force in August 2019.” MPs heard that at September 30, the fund’s assets stood at more than $1.9 billion, which was 11.7 times the annual value of benefits paid in 2017-18 — a “relatively high rate of funding”. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the One Bermuda Alliance finance spokeswoman in the House, said: “This is the lowest pension increase that this Government has afforded to our seniors, many of whom are struggling severely, since they came into office in 1998. At 1.4 per cent I would have been embarrassed to bring this to this honourable House. What it appears is that the minister and the Government are doing not much more than ticking the boxes.” She predicted others would criticize the OBA for fewer pension payments during its term leading the country from 2012 to 2017 but claimed austerity measures needed at the time were significant. Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “If things are as wonderful as the PLP Government would have us believe they are, they should be ashamed of themselves to come to seniors with a 1.4 per cent increase.” Wayne Furbert, the Junior Minister of Finance, asked: “Are you trying to tell me that this Government, who’s made a commitment to the people of Bermuda, the seniors, that it will given an increase every year while they are the Government, is wrong?” Michael Dunkley, an Opposition backbencher, said: “In reality 1.4 per cent is a very small increase.” He added: “We need to make sure that we shore up our pension funds as much as we can and I will be interested to see how the Government will be doing it going forward.” David Burt, the Premier, said: “We promised the people of this country that we would deliver pension increases in line with the cost of living. That is what we promised and that is what we deliver.” A statement later released by the Government confirmed seniors can expect to see the increase in their payment next month.

2018 November 10. A plan to make it easier for people to stay on at work after their 65th birthday (currently, employers in Bermuda both public and private can legally require staff over 65 to end their employment) was welcomed yesterday. Age Concern Bermuda said the move was “in the right direction” as the island grappled with an ageing population. But the charity said it wanted more detail on a proposed loan scheme designed to help people grow older in their own homes. Charles Jeffers, Age Concern deputy chairman, said he was pleased to hear a government proposal that would remove the need for public sector workers to get permission to work past their 65th birthday. He said: “That’s a move in the right direction. As long as people are in good health they should be allowed to continue to work and they should decide when they want to leave.” The Throne Speech added: “During this session, the order will be tabled to perfect the offer of interest-free loans to those who would support seniors ageing in place.” Mr Jeffers said: “Certainly, we would have to wait and see what they’re talking about because any time we talk about a loan it means pay back and whether it’s interest-free or not, it’s still got to be paid back. Who is it for and how is it going to be paid back? We need more detail. The moment I hear ‘loan’ my antenna goes up.” Mr Jeffers was speaking after Throne Speech pledges to look at ways to help seniors. John Rankin, the Governor, who delivered Government’s blueprint for the new session, said the “greying” of society challenges everyone. He added: “In many cases, the designation ‘senior citizen’ does not describe our energetic men and women aged 65 and older. The time has come to revise the mandatory retirement age to take account of our longer life span, the necessity to add additional stability to pension funds and to promote greater choice among the working population about when one retires. During this session, the legislature will be invited to discuss options for such revisions to the age of mandatory retirement from the public service, which will preserve the right to retire at 65 but permit a post-holder to work beyond that age without the requirement for permission to do so.” A population projections report by government statisticians published last month showed that almost 25 per cent of residents are expected to be aged 65 or older by 2026, compared to nearly 17 per cent in 2016. The number of seniors for every 100 people of working age was expected to rocket from 24.7 to 39.9 over the same period. John Barritt, the Bermuda Housing Trust chairman, said a commitment to help older people live in their chosen place, often their own homes, was a “starting point”. But he added people in the island’s wider employment marketplace would like to see moves to ensure “it is no longer permissible to discriminate against seniors on the basis of age” and “I hope it will go broader than just the public service.” Government departments will “further support the work of the Ageing Well Committee in the development of targeted policies to address the ageing population and its impact on Bermuda. These policies must be means tested, meaning that breaks that are provided to seniors are provided to those in most need of assistance.

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