By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Glen Beneby yesterday suggested that the government is one step closer in its efforts to convince stakeholders to get on board with the government’s proposed National Health Insurance scheme.
Dr Beneby said officials in the government’s NHI Steering Committee, headed by Peter Deveaux-Isaacs, are of the “firm belief” that the talks are now “entering a stage where we will have specific detailed discussions” over the various points of contention surrounding the proposed scheme.
This, Dr Beneby said, comes after having been given “even more focused direction” from Prime Minister Perry Christie and Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez to engage in discussions with the Medical Association of The Bahamas (MAB) and the private insurance sector over NHI.
He said within “the next few days” the media - and the public by extension - will be “exposed to these developments going forward”.
Dr Beneby also insisted that there would be no new introduction of any National Insurance contribution at the time of launch; however, he said should there be any changes or new developments, officials will be “informed accordingly”.
When asked just how close the government is to getting the various parties on the same page on NHI, Dr Beneby said: “Only in the last week under the direction of the prime minister and the minister of health, we have been given even more focused direction to engage in discussion with our stakeholders, the Medical Association of the Bahamas as well as the Bahamas Insurance Agents or private health insurers.
“We are of the firm belief, that now we are moving into the stage where we will have specific detailed discussions, that within the next few days you would be exposed to these developments going forward.”
Some have questioned the government’s capability to facilitate the proposed January 1 rollout, as well as the Christie administration’s ability to secure funding for the scheme, and the potential affects that would have on a successful implementation.
Recently, Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested that the government, the Medical Association of The Bahamas (MAB) and the private insurance sector were on the verge of a “confusing debate” over the way forward with NHI.
However, when questioned if there was indeed any “confusion” between the government and the stakeholders, Dr Beneby suggested that Mr Christie was merely highlighting the various opinions that are held and have been expressed by the stakeholders, and the need for the government to ensure that all parties are in agreement on the way forward with NHI.
“I believe we ought to keep our focus here,” he said. “Realistically there are a number of different opinions, and there is some variance among the stakeholders as we speak. Now understanding from the prime minister’s statement was that the prime minister was emphasizing that point, and more importantly the need for those of us who have this responsibility, to come together with the stakeholders and find common ground going forward that will allow the Bahamian people to benefit from universal healthcare coverage.”
Dr Beneby added that the issues that remain points of contention are the issues surrounding the costing and remuneration for the various groups affected, as well as the costing for the quality of care expected to be provided.
Those two issues, he said, will remain a “major focus in the days going forward.”
NHI will be phased in over a five-year period. The government has allocated $60m for NHI in the current fiscal year.
According to consultants Sanigest Internacional, NHI could cost up to $633m annually if implemented as a comprehensive package. On the low end, NHI could cost around $362m.