By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
BISHOP Simeon Hall moved to discredit the notion that the government’s National Health Insurance scheme is “too expensive” to be introduced, contending that such a “narrow-minded position” would only translate to the deaths of the “poor and downtrodden”.
In a statement released on Saturday, the pastor emeritus of New Covenant Baptist Church said the issues pertaining to the price of the scheme pales in comparison to the overall “wealth in this country”.
According to Bishop Hall, the average Bahamian spends $12,000 to $15,000 to bury deceased family members, but is incapable of paying for health insurance to keep loved ones alive.
He recalled the death of his younger brother who died as a result of a heart condition, claiming his sibling couldn’t afford to undergo a $250,000 procedure recommended by doctors.
“My brother had no health insurance. My brother is now dead,” Bishop Hall said.
He added: “An unfortunate truth is that even if my brother had the average health insurance that most Bahamians can reasonably afford, his fate would have more than likely been no different. Hundreds of Bahamians have a similar experience.”
However, the religious leader said he does not have “blinders on” regarding some of the more “salient points” surrounding NHI.
He said due to the “government’s problematic roll out” of the scheme, he too has concern over some aspects of its implementation.
Still, he said: “The long and short of it is National Health Insurance is needed in our country and the process has to begin at some point. Why not now?
“The poor and downtrodden in the Bahamas – who are again disproportionately disenfranchised by the existing medical and health insurance offerings - are a blatant contradiction to the wealth in this country.
“Let us, those who can absorb the cost of National Health Insurance, do our part to help the least, the lost and the left out.”
The government previously allocated $60m for NHI in this fiscal year, but has not disclosed complete details over the scheme’s design, pricing and benefits.
The first phase of NHI – which the government has said will entail registration and improvements to public health infrastructure – is due to be introduced January 1, 2016.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has foreshadowed that a new tax may be implemented in the 2016/2017 fiscal year to fund NHI, but has stressed that the government would not do anything to disrupt the economy.