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Civil Society Bahamas Supports Bahamas National Health Insurance Plan
Related to country: Bahamas

Civil Society Supports National Health Insurance Plan:

By Bianca Symonette -
Nassau, Bahamas:

Civil Society Bahamas now joins public health officials in pushing for the implementation of the National Health Insurance scheme after a town meeting held in April concluded that the health plan would be beneficial for Bahamians.

While releasing the report to the media from the town meeting, president of the group Freddie Munnings Jr. said it was the consensus of the civil society members that despite some of the negative response the government has received on the health insurance proposal, many are still in support of a national health plan.

"We reiterate that it is imperative that the government move forward with the implementation of NHI. The people have spoken…With the implementation of NHI there would be a continued health insurance at minimal cost to the pensioner. If only for this reason, the government ought to move expeditiously in implementing NHI," Mr. Munnings said.

In the conclusion of the report it indicates that the support for the health project outweighs those against having it implemented.

"It is noted that there is a vocal minority but the majority of the Bahamian people support NHI. This being the case we call upon the government to implement NHI for the good of the majority of the Bahamian citizens," Mr. Munnings said.

The report is based on presentations from stakeholders, the religious sector and the Trade Union Congress.

One of the concerns raised during the town meeting Mr. Munnings said, was whether illegal immigrants would benefit from the plan.

"Certain ambiguities as to whether illegal immigrants qualify for NHI were addressed by Dr. Stanley Lalta who indicated that based on legal advise, illegal immigrants are illegal and cannot belong or cannot be part of NHI and the NHI plan will not pay for the cost of their care," Mr. Munnings explained.

Originally when former Minister of Health Dr. Marcus Bethel outlined the health proposal, he indicated that illegal immigrants would be included in the plan and would have to make contributions.

However this suggestion did not sit well with many Bahamians who openly expressed their outrage towards illegal immigrants being included in the health plan.

Since then the health proposal has had some adjustments made to it and it now proposes that illegal immigrants pay for their care at public health facilities.

"The government will have to make provisions for treating illegal immigrants outside the NHI. If they come to the public system, then they will be billed as any other person who is a non-member of NHI, and this would include tourists or other short term visitors who are here," Mr. Munnings explained.

Another concern that was expressed during the town meeting and by health care professionals was the fact that pensioners would have to pay a dollar a day for the health plan, Mr. Munnings said it was pointed out that those persons below the poverty line due to their pensions will be treated as below the poverty line and their contribution will be paid by the government.

"Persons above the poverty line like pensioners getting above $250-$300 will find the burden of $1.00 a day too great and therefore NHI is presently looking at that closely to see whether a percentage and not a flat rate would be fair," Mr. Munnings said.

He added that during the town meeting only one presenter was against the implementation of NHI. All others, he said, although pointing to institutional strengthening and misgivings on costing, agreed in principle to implement the health plan.

Minster of Health Dr. Bernard Nottage said recently that he intends to hand over the proposal for the plan to the prime minister on December 31, ready for implementation.

The health minister added that it would then be up to the prime minister when he wants to implement it.

Some of the benefits of the proposed health plan include, access to outpatient care, prescription drugs and medical supplies, laboratory and diagnostic services, inpatient medical and surgical care, inpatient mental health care for short stays, overseas care not available locally and emergency airlift and transportation of Family Island residents.

25 October 2006

October 25, 2006 | 11:32 AM Comments  {num} comments

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