By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie on Friday insisted that the government’s main goal ahead of the proposed implementation date for National Health Insurance is ensuring the country’s medical infrastructure can deliver the quality of service “that fits the amount charged”.
He said, despite public fears, his administration would not institute any form of taxation for NHI prior to July 2016, which is the start of the new fiscal cycle. The government intends to introduce the first phase of NHI in January 2016.
Mr Christie stressed that none of the timelines associated with NHI have changed.
According to Mr Christie, phase one of NHI would primarily address the quality of infrastructure and service provided at state run healthcare facilities throughout the country.
He explained that the government has committed itself to a long-term plan to remediate government infrastructure related to healthcare.
“Making the physical premises ready for National Health Insurance - that is the focus - working to take the pressure off of Accident and Emergency and give better and more efficient service to people, to try and move people to outline clinics,” Mr Christie said at a memorial service for Vincent “Skeeter” Collins, a former PLP general.
“(We have to) give the clinics all the supplies they need, equipment they need, doctors they need and security they need to guarantee that world class service is delivered at various places.
“And so all of this is being discussed now as a part of the roll out to National Health Insurance, to ensure that even right up to the point of medical evacuation, procedures can be handled if the need arises.”
The prime minister said he wanted to avoid unnecessary questions being asked about the quality of service being offered once the government goes to the public for the funding of NHI through a new tax.
“The question is when we charge people, whatever the rates are, they will know why they are charged – a much more effective delivery of service moving forward,” he added.
Mr Christie said that along with current updates being made to the Princess Margret Hospital, clinics throughout the country will be revamped and reengineered to guarantee quality service is delivered.
“Going forward, with the rollouts, we hope that people will see our full plan and not be affected by it.”
“A lot of equity will be given to people to know that even though you are living on an island the means are there to ensure that if the need arises you will receive the adequate care.”
In October, Mr Christie said the government was mulling over a new tax to fund NHI, but stressed that his administration would not do anything to disrupt the economy.
“We will watch very carefully the economy,” the prime minister said last month following an NHI meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister. “We will be in discussions with stakeholders in the economy and anything we do will be matched by what the economy can absorb at that particular time.
“So even if rates come in the next budget year those rates would conform to what we would regard as the obligation of the government to ensure that the economy is not unduly disturbed by any rate or tax that we impose,” Mr Christie said previously.
NHI will be phased in over a five-year period, the government has said.
Officials from Sanigest Internacional, the government’s Costa Rican consultants on NHI, have stated that the scheme could cost up to $633m annually if implemented as a comprehensive package, but if introduced on the low end, NHI could cost around $362m.
The government has allocated $60m for the first phase of NHI.