With many businesses already reeling from the effects of Asia’s economic crisis, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce yesterday threw out its support on a proposed measure that will provide equal sharing of health insurance between employers and employees.
According to Kerry M. Deets, president of the Chamber, the proposal is a welcome move as employers have been incurring huge expenses in shouldering 100 percent the medical insurance of nonresident workers.
“A 50-50 sharing is an ideal situation. However, if an employer chooses to give a higher percentage, that’s already his option but a minimum requirement would be to share the expense,” said Deets. To get the view of its members, the Chamber will discuss the proposed law in its scheduled meeting next month.
The bill, entitled the Commonwealth Mandatory Health Insurance Act of 1999, also intends to correct the loophole in the existing law by extending medical insurance to resident employees who have been deprived of the benefit for a long time.
Sen. Juan P. Tenorio said his proposal seeks the equal distribution of benefits to both resident and nonresident employees. “It levels the playing field and only provides fairness to everybody,” he said.
Tenorio noted that the government has been subsidizing the health care of nonresident workers because some employers cannot afford to pay medical insurance.
“We have been generous for a long time by paying 100 percent the health insurance. However, there is no such thing as free lunch,” said Tenorio.
Aside from the business sector, the senator said he will ask health care companies to comment on his bill.
Meanwhile, the legislators told Chamber members that the Resident Workers Fair Compensation Act or Public Law 11-74 will be amended to include the changes recommended by the businesses sector.
Such amendment must take into consideration that the proposed health insurance law will make it mandatory for employers to cover resident workers while the Resident Workers Fair Compensation Act provides flexibility allowing for the conversion of various benefits, including health care, into cash.
Public Law 11-74, which was signed by Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio last month, provides that local residents earning less than an hourly wage of $5.15 shall receive all mandated benefits extended to foreign workers.
The law provides that locals whose wages are still below the prevailing minimum level in the United States are entitled to receive in-kind or the cash equivalent of the full benefits such as subsidized food, housing, local transportation, health insurance and medical care.