The Government Employee’s Service Commission Health Insurance Board recently passed an important change to territorial government worker health policies in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The new rule stipulates that active government employees and retirees under the age of 65 are required to receive health risk assessments. The alternative is to pay a steep financial penalty, in addition to the health care premiums employees pay.

Currently, Government of the Virgin Islands employees are able to have health risk assessments voluntarily. According to one expert, about 1,400 employees completed a health risk assessment in 2013. By making them mandatory, however, about 11,000 employees will now need to be assessed — or opt out by paying a financial penalty. The penalty is a bi-weekly payment of $20.83 in fiscal year 2015, paid in addition to insurance premiums. This rule applies only to employees, and not family members also covered under the health plans. Furthermore, it only affects current employees and retirees under 65.

The Government Employee’s Service Commission Health Insurance Board has made the change in an effort to lower overall premium costs. These types of health risk assessments are often used to further study environmental stressors, which may include toxins and chemicals introduced either in natural settings or in workplaces. Assessments attempt to determine how stressors impact health in relation to other factors, such as gender and age.

According to information currently available, employees undergoing the health care assessment should expect the entire process to last about 20 minutes, and the first 5,000 people will receive a $25 gift card as an added bonus. By doing this, officials hope they can get the program off to a strong start and encourage people to have their assessment completed right away, rather than waiting until it’s too late.

If you are a current Government of the Virgin Islands employee or retiree under the age of 65, it’s important to understand your rights and obligations under this new rule. This may affect how you approach your health care, and if you fail to get an assessment promptly enough, you may be subject to fees that go beyond your health insurance premiums.

Time will tell whether this new rule makes a difference in terms of health care costs for U.S. Virgin Islands government employees. For now, individuals impacted by the rule change need to remain updated and aware of what they need to do to meet the new requirements.

BoltNagi is a widely respected and well-established government relations law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.