Insurance industry ‘in no position to advise’ on NHI

Bradley Roberts

Bradley Roberts


Tribune Staff Reporter


PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said the Bahamas Insurance Association’s authority as a stakeholder in the National Health Insurance debate is discredited due to the industry’s high premium rates.

Mr Roberts blamed the “insurance cartel” for the “large numbers” of Bahamians currently “begging, borrowing, and hosting cookouts” because they cannot afford health insurance.

Mr Roberts suggested that the BIA is in no position to advise the government on how it should administer its proposed NHI scheme while its own premium costs are “spiralling out of control”. He said if the BIA is convinced that it can deliver “superior administration of National Health Insurance at a lower cost,” then it should demonstrate it by first lowering the cost of insurance and “making the same more affordable and therefore accessible to a larger percentage of the population”.

In a statement released on Monday night, Mr Roberts further said that it would be “nonsensical” to simply cede major control of the country’s healthcare services to an “insurance cartel that will probably not alter its current practices, but simply continue its usual modus operandi as it did before, only this time with mandated tribute from a captive population and premiums paid directly to them by the government on behalf of tens of thousands of Bahamians.”

He also said it is “nonsensical” of the BIA to propose to create a “private cartel through the elimination of a public option”.

Mr Roberts’ statement is the latest in a saga of strained relations between the government and insurance stakeholders over the administration of NHI. The insurance industry is hoping that the government will abandon its plans to establish a public insurer and instead work towards offering affordable premiums to citizens along with its proposed vital benefits plan.

To accomplish this, the BIA has recently proposed the removal of value added tax (VAT) from all medical services and medical insurance, and the reduction of premium taxes in order to make healthcare more affordable.

The BIA also called for the establishment of a legislated body made up of the industry, the government and civil society to set rates for the plan.

Yesterday, however, Mr Roberts dismissed the BIA’s proposal as “the same old discredited and tired argument advanced more than 40 years ago with the implementation of National Insurance”.

“If the BIA is convinced that it can deliver superior administration of NHI at a lower cost, then why is the BIA proposing to create a private cartel through the elimination of a public option?” Mr Roberts said. “That is nonsensical. The insurance cartel could just demonstrate it by reducing the cost of insurance coverage and making the same more affordable and therefore accessible to a larger percentage of the population.

“What we have seen instead are premiums spiralling out of control and large numbers of Bahamians begging, borrowing and hosting cookouts in part because they cannot afford health insurance. This is not the way forward for a free, modern democratic Bahamas.”

On Sunday, an insurance industry insider told The Tribune that stakeholders are discussing contingency plans in case the Christie administration fails to incorporate some of the BIA’s proposals into its NHI scheme.

Then on Monday, a high-level stakeholder in the industry warned that the jobs of as many as 1,000 people will be in jeopardy if the government moves ahead with its NHI scheme without incorporating the BIA’s recommendations.

Yesterday, however, Mr Roberts remained steadfast to his previous suggestions that the BIA wants “unfettered powers to raise premiums to ensure profits”.

NHI will be phased in over a five-year period, officials have said. The government has allocated $60m for the first phase of NHI.

According to Sanigest Internacional, the government’s Costa Rican consultants on NHI, the scheme could cost up to $633m if implemented as a comprehensive package. On the low end, NHI could cost around $362m.

However, the government has yet to reveal how much NHI will cost and how it plans to pay for the proposed scheme.


Somebody 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm guessing Mr. Roberts thinks that premium tax + VAT will result in lower premiums for all.


bahamalove 7 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Roberts has a point. The insurance industry is as profit-driven as the Canadian banks. I don't trust the industry any more than I trust any government to set-up and manage 'Bahamacare'. I would prefer to see a quasi-governmental organization with an independent Health Czar put in place with different stakeholders from the various sectors employed to oversee and manage a NHI program for the Bahamas with the aim of reducing costs, waste and cronyism in the entire scheme. Otherwise, it would be like putting lipstick on a pig.


sheeprunner12 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes I do agree that Big Bad Brad has a point ........... but how will the government pay for a NHI plan without taxing us??????? ........ we are paying for SLOP Airport......... we are paying for NIB unemployment relief ...........we are paying for VAT ............ we are going to pay for the newBEC bailout ........... and now we are being asked to pay for NHI???????? What frigging else???? Then add on the hidden taxes that we have been paying for decades


TruePeople 7 years, 9 months ago

also paid for all those all inclusive trips to China and back


asiseeit 7 years, 10 months ago

The ministry of health just came out and said they waste 100 million a year. What makes any sane person think that NHI will not be a corrupt, wasteful, mismanaged scheme that benefits the politicians and their croneys? We the Bahamian people will get no benefit, will bear the burden of the taxes and still have to pay for private health to get any sort of real health care. Bend over Bahamas, you are about to get juice once again and no they ain't gonna give you no vasilene to ease the pain!


birdiestrachan 7 years, 10 months ago

Those people who are against NHI. already have medical insurance and they do not really care about others. All they care about is how much money they can make. the word is Greedy. One may pay medical Insurance for thirty years and never make a claim. and after thirty years if you can no longer pay and one takes sick. they have no benefits at all.


asiseeit 7 years, 10 months ago

Birdie, I would love NHI IF I could trust government to do it without waste, mismanagement, corruption and all the rest of their nasty tricks. Only a fool would believe that a government scheme such as NHI could be sucsessful or even in our best interest, it will be a total failure just as every other government scheme is. Tell me one government scheme that is not beset by incompetence, political medelling, corruption, waste, mismanagement, and in general is a drain on Bahamians as a whole. This is a disaster in the making and may just sink the country. Sad to say but at this point that may be a good thing!


TruePeople 7 years, 9 months ago

Ya, my sentiment exactly.. except for sinking the country.... that I want to avoid! 0_o


TalRussell 7 years, 10 months ago

Comrades take note neither Dr. Duane, nor his red party want to kill PM Christie's health care legislation. Dr. Duane might be an excellent heart doctor whilst operating on hearts in the theaters at the PMH and Rand Hospitals but once his gowns come off, he talks more like a cost cutting numbers crunching accountant. You have be one cold-hearten red shirt to sing praises insurance boys.


MonkeeDoo 7 years, 10 months ago

birdiestrachan - please reply to asiseeit !


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