The 26th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands has been attempting to address the lack of health insurance for that part of our community that are without health insurance coverage. As I understand their effort, it is to provide some form of universal health insurance, that is laudable. However I believe that is only one part of the needs of this community, because there is also a need for workers to be able to retire with dignity with an adequate pension.
Therefore, I would propose that we address the total welfare of our community, of the working class. This would mean addressing their present and future needs. Provisions should be made for when they retire. Too many of our senior citizens reach the end of their workable years and are left to depend on their offspring or other relatives, in the worst scenario these seniors end up depending on the government or public welfare services.
Employees of the U.S. Virgin Islands government are beneficiaries of a very generous retirement system, the GERS. It is my studied opinion that we can extend similar benefits, if not the same to the rest of the working population. The Virgin Islands is one community, with one government. All citizens should be afforded the same rights, privileges and benefits whether they are government employees or employees of the private sector. Their needs are the same, they use the same health system, pay taxes, subscribe to the same utility services.
I hereby propose that we allow the GERS, which has a very good track record in providing for its members, to sponsor a subsidiary, as an investment, that would provide similar services to a large segment of our population. By providing a needed safety net for all our residents will have a positive domino effect. Our health care facilities would be better compensated for the services they provide, that presently go unpaid in many instances. Universal health insurance and provisions for adequate pension will improve the quality of life for a majority of Virgin Islands residents.
Therefore, we can consider an alternative to the current proposal in the Legislature offering a limited coverage for a limited number of residents. We can extract some of the positive features and include them in my proposal to have the GERS sponsor a subsidiary that would provide similar coverage to that of government employees to the private sector. That would result in a type of universal coverage for residents of the Virgin Islands. I believe it could make premium more affordable for everyone because of the bigger pool, a larger membership in the system. Numbers count and make a difference. Consider it, it makes sense, think outside the box. Accept positive changes and let us all move forward and upward. A better life for most of our community. Then it can be justified to make health insurance and pension benefits compulsory in the territory.
J. J. Estemac
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