SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Social and health Insurance provider SZV has seen a drop of some NAf 4 million per month in premiums since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. This constitutes a significant loss for the solidarity fund that is built on a “pay-as-you-go” system that pays for the health care costs of all insured clients.
In spite of the drop in premiums, SZV is so far keeping pace with the needs of its clients. The decline in overseas medical referrals due to the pandemic has also helped as well as the availability of more treatments and specialists locally.
SZV has also seen the deregistration of some 4,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to December 2020. What is alarming, is that this number of people is not reflected in applications for income support offered by government via Sint Maarten Development Fund (SMDF).
SZV Director Glen Carty said it is not clear if employers have deregistered employees to avoid paying the premiums and still have employees on staff but paying them in cash. “This would mean there are a lot of people in the grey economy and both SZV and government are losing revenues that are vital for the country and its residents,” said Carty. The other possibility could be that these “former” employees could have left the island. Data sharing between governmental and semi-governmental institutions is of vital importance to confirm or dispel these assumptions. This data sharing is being worked upon.
Everyone must pay their part of their premiums even in these tough pandemic times. “Even though the economy is bad, we all have obligations. Paying premiums is not only the right thing to do as an employer, it is also a legal responsibility to the country,” Carty said.
Business owners are cautioned against withholding premiums from employees but not paying these to SZV. Managing directors of companies are reminded that they are personally liable for unpaid premiums and taxes of their companies.
Employees can verify that they are registered by SZV and by which company, by logging into the MySZV portal on www.szv.sx. “Through the portal, you can see if you are registered or not. If you are not registered, you lose access to health care for yourself and your dependents and accident coverage. If your premiums are deducted and you are not registered as having a valid insurance, contact us for help,” said Carty.
SZV urges all businesses on Sint Maarten to keep their social and health insurance premiums up to date along with their employees’ registry with SZV. For those businesses experiencing revenue problems, SZV encourages these to make an appointment to discuss payment arrangements with SZV as soon as possible.
Business owners should not labour under the assumption that SZV will write off any of their unpaid premiums. Carty explained that SZV will continue to send out payment reminders to businesses and urge them to pay their bills.
“More often now we are encountering or hearing about businesses with issues regarding their banking card machines. We can assume that this could mean the sales and related cash are not being registered. This implies the proper revenue is not recorded. Keep accurate administration. Keep your administration up to date and file everything. Businesses must make their payments. Work with us, we are here to work with you,” said Carty. This is preferable to SZV executing liens and auctions for unpaid premiums.
It is also doubly important to have all administration in order as SZV’s Audit Team St. Maarten (ATS) will be very active in the coming weeks. The team will execute normal business audits and audits of businesses that have received support via the Sint Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP).
As a way to combat premium dodgers, unannounced visits to restaurants and other businesses will take place. The goal is to see if services are rendered for cash only, and to verify how many staff members are working at a particular establishment. This in order to cross reference with the company’s employee registration.
These inspection reports will give SZV a handle on what may be happening with revenue and whether employees are properly registered with SZV.
Government is working on improving its compliance with the payment of its premiums to SZV. Just as the private sector, government also has to become fully compliant with SZV. Finance Minister Ardwell Irion announced last week that government is seeking a structured solution for the approximately NAf 100 million owed to SZV. The deadline for government to service to its backlog was March 31, 2021. SZV has agreed to give government three more weeks to put forward a serious solution or coverage of civil servants and social medical assistance (PP-card holders) will be withdrawn.
Businesses paying their taxes have an impact of government serving its debts to SZV. Carty said if businesses don’t pay their taxes, government does not get needed revenue and cannot service its own bills. “Then, we have a cycle,” he added.