By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) yesterday called on the government to “disassociate” itself from what it called “divisive comments” made by its technical consultants Sanigest Internacional on the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, suggesting that its proposals threaten to bankrupt the private health insurance sector.
“The member companies of BIBA play an important role in the insurance sector as defenders and protectors of insurance consumers. As such, we are key Bahamian stakeholders in the move towards universal healthcare. We support this goal, but insist that the process not be hijacked and deflected by partisan squabbling and sniping,” the BIBA said in a statement.
“Although Sanigest has referred to a ‘multi-payer’ model for NHI that will preserve choice, what this actually means is that a government entity will be created to provide health insurance to the public. We note that the government’s track record in public corporations like Bahamasair, BEC and ZNS has been disastrous, due mostly to political interference. Do we really want similar interference and lack of accountability in our personal health care decisions?
“In our view, Sanigest’s NHI proposals threaten the private healthcare sector with bankruptcy, are likely to encourage more fraud and higher administrative costs, will put many Bahamians in the sector out of work and can be expected to launch a spiral of public spending and taxation. There can be little doubt that these proposals will have a serious negative effect on the private health insurance sector - an industry that has contributed substantially to Bahamian GDP growth over decades. The Bahamas Insurance Brokers Association seeks to ensure that access to essential healthcare services and quality in delivery of those services are available to all residents of the Bahamas - in a manner that does not disrupt the economy.
“This important goal requires meaningful collaboration and stakeholder discussion, not divisive statements or disparaging lectures from consultants.”
Earlier this week, the Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) also fired back at recent statements by Sanigest Internacional’s president James Cercone, saying that it was “unacceptable, inappropriate and disrespectful” for the government’s NHI consultant to publicly scold the industry over its concerns, and that such attacks would make meaningful dialogue on the issue difficult to achieve. In a subsequent statement this week, the BIA suggested that Sanigest was operating in “conflicting roles” as both government consultant and primary advocate for NHI.
Mr Cercone had said it was “absolutely absurd” for Bahamian private health insurers to fear that the proposed NHI scheme would result in the “complete nationalisation” of their industry. He told Tribune Business the scheme would actually create “a more competitive and dynamic” health insurance market than presently exists. He explained that Sanigest had pushed the government to approve a ‘multi-payer’ model for NHI, where the existing private health insurers will compete alongside a yet-to-be created public insurer, all offering the same plans and benefits.
Mr Cercone also described as “non-existent” fears that the scheme’s implementation will negatively impact the Bahamian economy, arguing that the current system was “more damaging”. Further, he said that the BIA was accused of “comparing apples with oranges” over its estimates of NHI total costs, suggesting it was resistant to “dramatic but necessary change”.