By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) is finalising the formation of a committee to review the Government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) proposals, its chief executive agreeing that implementation costs were a major concern.
Edison Sumner, who is also a member of the Government’s NHI steering committee, told Tribune Business: “We are in the process of finalising the formation of a committee who will be reviewing the NHI proposals, and once that committee is formed we will start to put positions together based on the information that we have.
“There was a private sector committee established several years ago, who looked at the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission, and we are going to be studying the work already done and looking at revisions made to the current plan.”
“Once our committee would have had a chance to review those details, then we would be able to begin putting a position forward. As it stands at the moment, I have been representing the private sector on the NHI steering committee,” Mr Sumner said.
“It’s been more of an exploratory process to see what’s available, what’s out there and getting reports in from the consultant, Sanigest. We haven’t formed an opinion as yet. We are reviewing the information we have, and the committee, once they complete their work, then we will begin to formulate a comprehensive private sector response to the NHI proposals.”
National Health Insurance was first developed as a policy priority under the first Christie administration. A 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission was appointed to review the feasibility of a National Health Insurance Plan. The National Health Insurance Act 2006 was then tabled in Parliament by the Christie government on November 2006.
The Government is now moving towards the “full implementation” of a National Health Insurance scheme, having appointed a 12-member steering committee to oversee the full implementation of the National Insurance Act 2006. The main fears, now as then, were the likely cost burden an NHI scheme would impose on the Bahamian economy and business community, and who will pay for it.
“The cost element is a major concern, and even that hasn’t been determined yet. We have some ideas and indications but we don’t know; we don’t know for sure yet how it’s going to be funded. These are questions being asked and issues being addressed. I suppose we won’t have a final determination until the work of the consultants and the cost analysis is complete. We expect to be very engaged in the process,” said Mr Sumner.