By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Chairman Gowon Bowe asserted that the government’s “adversarial” position to stick to a January 2016 launch of National Health Insurance is a “gun to the head” of Bahamians.
Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Bowe suggested that the Christie administration has fuelled fear and uncertainty because there has been no confirmation of key features of the healthcare scheme, including the associated costs, benefits and the structure it is expected to take on.
In the face of continued calls to delay the roll out of NHI, Mr Bowe said he was of the view that no one would fault the government if it decided to postpone its plans to ensure the scheme is as successful as possible. He said this would be the best move as there are too many unknowns.
This comes after Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said on Wednesday that the government was implementing NHI in a “chaotic manner” as he urged the government to delay its plans.
However, Acting Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said on Tuesday the government is resolute in ensuring that every Bahamian is afforded free healthcare with no plans to delay NHI.
“Timelines shouldn’t be a barrier to success and they certainly shouldn’t serve as a gun to the head,” Mr Bowe said when contacted for comment.
“But the government has taken a stance that they won’t be bullied by any special interest group. I view this as adversarial.
“The key concern for everyone is, have they reached all of the internal milestones? What does January 1 mean? Will it mean just building the register? If the government can clearly reveal what January 1 will mean then that might begin to allay some of the fear of Bahamians and private operators alike.
“While the prime minister has said he won’t do anything that will damage the economy by putting in place a scheme that does not work, there has still been no clear indication of the benefits, cost, or what the structure will be.”
He continued: “I think the government should make it clear they are not backing off but are giving confidence to the constituents so that it can be implemented with the least amount of challenges.
“But if you go in with all stakeholders saying they are in a state of flux, the question is then, have you hit the internal milestones? We need to be very careful.”
This week, the Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) released a statement saying the proposed NHI model constitutes “a hostile takeover” of the private health insurance sector by government.
The association predicted that NHI would destabilise the health insurance sector, which they expect to have a snowballing effect on the entire insurance industry.
The BIA further cautioned the government to exercise prudence in its management of the country’s affairs and to implement universal health coverage in the Bahamas in a responsible rather than reckless manner.
This followed assertions by a high-level stakeholder in the health insurance industry who told The Tribune this week that as many as 1,000 people will lose their jobs if the government proceeds with NHI without incorporating the BIA’s recommendations.