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Bermuda's Senior Citizens - how they compare with the elderly elsewhere

Far lower social security, benefits, concessions and medical health coverage than USA, Canada, UK and Europe

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

How pensions, benefits and services compare with those overseas

Social Security Payouts by age 65

Based on 2013 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 $$$$$        

Per Capita Income

Based on 2013 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, Bermuda, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Monaco (not USA as commonly assumed, it merely has the world's biggest economy). The first five 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.

Home care provisions

Based on 2013 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 $$        

Employees/employers government-required private pension coverage

Based on 2013 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 $$$        

$ shown do not represent amounts but effectiveness.  Required by law in most European countries and protected by legislation, some 0- like the Netherlands - for over 30 years. In USA, only about 50% have such coverage.  In UK, Bermuda, USA, if companies go bankrupt or wind up, there are no laws protecting these pensions.

Sheltered Housing and Care Homes

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

USA is the most generous overall, although it varies and is administered and often owned directly or indirectly, by each State. In USA, pensioners who qualify get and can keep all their Social Security and pay as rent only what they can afford, with the state paying the rest. The sheltered housing apartments at Hope Homes in Attleboro, MA, as typical, are in various sizes for widows or widowers or married couples, but all have at least one double bedroom; bathroom with shower/bath and toilet; separate living room, kitchenette with dining area; and storage space, with a central lounge and other facilities, usually with a car park for vehicles owned by persons living there. The sizes of the premises in all other countries shown are similar. Citizens of most of them keep their social security or pay a moderate amount as rent. In the UK, premises are small and pensioners have to surrender all their social security, except for about 25 a month. In Bermuda, the least generous, rents are far higher than social security and premises are only for those who can afford them from their own resources or those of their families.

Universal Health Care and Hospitalization included in taxes

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

Universal medical prescriptions included in taxes

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 UK, free Prescriptions automatically without limit to all over 60s and qualified others  doctor-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). 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.

Overall evaluation

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

Social Security monthly averages compared to UK and USA

All converted to Bermuda/US $. In the case of the UK, figures shown are weekly converted to monthly and also converted to US $ at the exchange rate of 1=US$1.65. Source - the author.

Other Benefits compared

Bermuda United Kingdom USA
No equivalent in winter heating or summer air-conditioning 250 a year Winter Fuel Allowance (Heating) to all British households with someone over 60, on proof of age and production of birth certificate if not already registered. . N/A
 No equivalent in Bermuda of the UK's National Health Service free subscriptions to the over 60s and PPC discounts shown to the right. Free Prescriptions automatically without limit to all over 60s and qualified others  with doctor-confirmed qualifying condition such as diabetes, heart problems, asthma, thyroid. All other under 60 in England (not Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland) pay a maximum cost per prescription of 8.40 but with a 12 month prepayment certificate (PPC) can obtain all the prescriptions they need for 2 a week Restrictions and exclusions apply by state
No Free eye tests to pensioners. No
No If qualified, plus an Attendance Allowance for those over 65 to help with costs of illness or disability. N/A
No Bereavement Benefit. Lump sum of 2,000 (about $3,800) if dead spouse or partner was under 60 or not on pension andon a means-tested low income.. Not known
No Carer's Allowance. 58 a week, for those caring 35 hours a week or more for those with DLA Higher Rate. N/A
No Care home places for those without their own homes are funded wholly or partly by local authorities N/A
No Care and Repair, for those 60 and over who are owner-occupiers, with disabilities, or crofters. It provides advice and help, with work carried out by authorities N/A
No If qualified, plus Care Home places for those without their own homes are funded wholly or partly by local authorities Applicable to those who qualify, by state
No The Central Heating Initiative, for those without it, in a cold and damp Bermuda winter N/A
No Cold Weather Payment (different from a Winter Fuel Payment) N/A
All Bermudian homeowners over 65 qualify for some or all Land Tax relief Council Tax Benefit, but only for means-tested home-owners. Some qualify, by state
No Housing Benefit, to non-home-owners, to help pay their rent. N/A
Free Bermuda-wide public buses and ferries for over Bermuda-based 65+ at any time Free per-country bus and ferry travel for over 60s and the disabled  (About one in eight buses and coaches in Scotland have a low floor, powered lift or ramp or kneeling mechanism). Free bus travel in cities by state by application
No Funeral Payment, if on Minimum Income Guarantee, up to 600 ($1140) for burial or cremation and other costs such as coffin and flowers. Not known
No Sheltered Housing 60 or over, in a home to rent or buy, designed specifically for an older person's needs - for those able to do so. Some applicants may be entitled to Housing Benefit or the Minimum Income Guarantee to help pay for it. By state
No such requirement, to its great credit Television License. Over 140 in 2009/2010 per household, but free to pensioners 75 or over.  No such requirement, to its great credit
No Free admission for pensioners to national museums and galleries in certain countries of UK Not policy but often applied by state, or with seniors' discounts

Eligibility of Pensioners

Bermuda United Kingdom USA
By family financial standing By his/her own financial standing By his/her own financial standing

Overview in Bermuda

Also see Senior Citizens in Bermuda

The World Bank says only Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Switzerland exceed Bermuda in Gross National Income. Their seniors live in reasonable comfort and dignity, with concern, compassion and adequate funding. How do seniors and disabled in Bermuda compare in social security pensions, benefits and services with seniors in countries lower than Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Bermuda in Gross National Income, such as in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom and rest of Europe?

Certainly, in transportation - by bus and ferry - Bermuda offers totally free public transportation to seniors and disabled who can produce a Special Persons Card. Plus, if you are severely disabled, with such an acute balance problem you cannot use a bus - you might qualify for free annual car licensing. But in all other important respects, we rate very poorly compared to Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and USA, Canada, United Kingdom, rest of EEC, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

In Bermuda, the maximum Social Security benefit for those who qualify is presently USA/BDA $950 a month. Some receive less than $400 a month. Only about 20% of all local pensioners qualify for this maximum amount. Locally, benefits average $650 per month per qualifying retiree. This is very low compared to UK, USA and elsewhere. They include many seniors who do not own their own homes, have to rent, are no longer employed, depend 100% on their Social Security as their only monthly income and as a result cannot afford even the very basic Government HIP insurance. With Bermuda having perhaps the lowest percentage overall - ignoring the relative differences in race - of home ownership in both the Western and other Hemispheres, how do they live! Not in any comfort or dignity! There is no way any of those in this category can afford the $600-$900 it will cost to have any kind of median health insurance with a local licensed health insurer.

Even those fortunate enough to have both a private monthly income (even if it is only $1,400 a month) and pay no rent find it difficult to make ends meet, as single or divorced people or widows or widowers. Only if they have a private income over and above their pension, or are subsidized by their family members, can they afford the cost of the very basic, Government-provided, HIP Insurance. If otherwise uninsured - as is now the case with many over 65 - seniors can enroll in this at premiums from $128.80 a month. It covers 80% of the cost of hospitalization in a public ward in Bermuda but the exclusions are scary - no coverage for doctors or operations or prescription medications or having to go overseas to get treatment of a type not offered in Bermuda.

It seems they don't qualify for Financial Assistance from the Government. It appears the latter is only for the truly destitute. The USA, Canada, UK and Europe are significantly more generous in this respect. Some financial assistance, via the Ministry of Health and Social Services, is given to Bermudians only who are pensioners who don't own and have to pay to rent a home and don't have a job or any private investment income and have virtually no savings. (In Bermuda, the average household income for working people was estimated to be $80,500 in 2008, with the average salary per person island-wide earning BDA/USAS$59,596.

Compare this situation in Bermuda with the USA, where Social Security averages $1285 for persons who are still living but have not worked - mostly because they have been housewives since the late 1940s - for the past 50 years. For those with a more modern and sustained employment history, it can quite easily be US$1,644 a month, or $1,931 a month at age 67 or $2,697 a month if a pensioner is healthy enough or willing to wait until age 70 before drawing benefits. (See the website for USA's Social Security Administration). Plus, in the USA, only about half of all older Americans have any income tax liability. Many who do are in the low or lowest tax brackets. Some pay no income taxes at all. In Bermuda, apart from Land Tax if they own property and are exempted from it in whole or in part, and free car licensing, all senior citizens pay the same amount of taxes as anyone else.

Only relatively few seniors - non-Bermudians and Bermudians - are truly sufficiently affluent enough to afford the Bermuda lifestyle and high cost of living.

Locals may have to pay more than $150,000 for hospital treatment abroad

When residents go to the USA for treatment not available in Bermuda - such as for strokes or heart bypasses - they must have the money or medical insurance means. The average for a triple heart bypass or 10-day stay in Boston or Baltimore seems to be $100,000. A few lucky ones, if under 65, may have major medical insurance. But the rest do not. Such coverage ends at 65 for most. Government-provided HIP and/or Future Care are too expensive for many over 65.

Bermuda is one of the most affluent countries in the world yet
there is no legislation that either provides decent, affordable, comprehensive, public sector health insurance - or a requirement or tax incentive - for private health insurers to extend major medical to beyond 65. Withdrawal of health care insurance generally - and major medical insurance in particular after the age of 65 is an ever-increasing problem. But at least in the USA there are alternatives, such as Medicare, Medicaid and MediGap, to those who qualify by residence, age or disability or income. The closest Bermuda gets to them are with the basic public ward hospitalization only and HIP/FutureCare insurance, both by the Government, at a huge cost compared to the cost to enrolled taxpayers in the USA of Medicare, Medicaid and MediGap, yet with few of their benefits and services.

Some local (Bermudian) licensed insurers offer Long Term Health Care Insurance. But locally-based overseas-owned (non-Bermudian) insurers which may offer Long Term Health Care Insurance beyond Bermuda are not allowed to offer them in Bermuda. In contrast, in other countries where they do business but do not have their head office or jurisdictional incorporation, they routinely offer regular healthcare, major medical and Long Term Healthcare insurance after their employees retire. Only Bermuda seems to restrict international insurance companies from offering a wide range of health insurance options, but Bermuda is dubbed one of the Insurance Capitals of the World - and "the" Special Risks Capital.

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Last Updated: January 1, 2017.
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