By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AS THE government moves towards introducing National Health Insurance (NHI), private medical professionals in Freeport yesterday met a team from the Ministry of Health and NHI Secretariat to review details of the proposed design for the primary healthcare model and to discuss different options by which providers will participate in NHI.
The meeting was held at the Sir Charles Hayward Library, the precursor to similar meetings and workshop sessions today with public health professionals.
Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville said that the government’s most important social objective is to provide citizens with accessible, equitable, high quality healthcare, noting that financing in the initial phase will be covered by government and there will be no co-payment or registration fees paid at the point of service.
Dr Darville explained that, initially, NHI will cover only primary care provided through the clinics, with hospital services still provided under the current scenario, with the expectation that services will then be expanded to cover specialist services that are life-threatening and then expand the services as health system strengthening advances.
The Minister indicated that health and national development are linked as a healthier nation leads to a wealthier nation. “Indeed high labour productivity is a key driver of wealth creation and national development,” he added.
He said that while health spending in the nation has more than doubled in the last decade, each year there are the same or worse results.
“The time has come for greater accountability and transparency in public health financing. We are committed to the establishment of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC) system that delivers value for money in healthcare and we have developed a phased approach to implementation that we are confident will ensure affordable universal access to care,” Dr Darville said.
Improving the health of Bahamians is a top priority for the government, which recognises the numerous benefits that universal health coverage will have on the economy.
“We acknowledge National Health Insurance to be an important element that can create stronger growth and prosperity in our nation. Investing in health will stimulate shared economic growth as citizens live longer and with greater capacity to pursue the lives they value,” he said.
He noted that last year, the World Health Organisation affirmed that every dolla invested in providing universal health coverage will return up to $20 in expanded economic growth within a generation.
Expanding the healthcare system in Grand Bahama and throughout the nation, he said, will also create job opportunities, training and improve the lives of the hardworking members of the healthcare workforce.
Dr Darville said that private health insurers and private healthcare providers must be key components of NHI, working together to build a healthier nation.
He reported that the design of NHI will rest on six pillars.
“First, all legal residents will be beneficiaries of the NHI system. Second, all beneficiaries will be able to choose a primary care provider as our system is being built around a strong primary healthcare system. That choice will include both public sector and private sector facilities, depending on the beneficiary’s preference.
“Third, beneficiaries will be able to choose their insurer from the private insurers certified to work with NHI or the public insurer. Fourth, Bahamians will continue to be able to purchase supplementary private health insurance for any benefits not covered through NHI (such as overseas care available locally).
“Fifth, a vital benefits package, starting with primary healthcare as an initial phase, has been developed that ensures that the most critical healthcare needs of NHI members will be met and financed by NHI.
“And finally, financing in the initial phase will be covered by government and is likely to always remain highly based on general revenues with a small contributory financing source during the roll-out to a full benefit package. During this initial phase, with primary healthcare services introduced later this year, there will be no co-payment or registration fees paid at the point of service.”