By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands warned yesterday that no payments under the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme will be made until a proper governance structure is in place.
And Dr Sands told The Tribune at the same time as this structure is being established a legal opinion would be sought on the validity of all contracts entered into by NHI.
Dr Sands noted the new NHI Authority’s Board only met for the first time last week.
“Now that the Board is in place one of the first things it has to do is to appoint a managing director, a legal adviser, financial controller and so forth,” he said.
“It is only when those things are properly in place that any contractual obligations can be reviewed and funds disbursed.”
The Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) pointed out last month that key aspects of the NHI Act had not been ‘gazetted’ and brought into law by the time the scheme was launched. Among the sections omitted were those giving authority to enroll persons in NHI; the criteria setting out who was eligible to enroll and the framework detailing the functions of health care providers and insurers.
Dr Sands added: “The establishment of a proper governance structure and the appointment of the NHI staff proper is required in order to facilitate any payments from the NHI Authority which is now an instrument of the Ministry of Health.
“The legal disbursement of funds to anyone from NHI demands that the appropriate governance and corporate structure is adhered to and we have been moving diligently to put in place all of these things. When we talk about accounts payable and indeed accounts receivable they now have to be deal with a new legal entity.”
Dr Sands recognized there was concern over the way NHI had been administered in light of the political imperative to begin rolling out services in April of this year.
“There are a number of options to remedy this and we have chosen to fix it.,” he said.
“When things are appropriate and the structure for doing things in dignity and in order is in place then people will be paid. I can’t say when that will be but we are moving on that.”
Dr Sands has previously acknowledged to The Tribune complaints of non-payment from private doctors who had signed-up to provide services to NHI’s 25,000-plus beneficiaries.
“There is also a need to review all of the contracts that were entered into without the appropriate governance and corporate framework and so we are going to need a legal opinion as to the validity of those contracts,” said Dr Sands.
He noted that while the Christie administration had agreed to go with AETNA, Family Guardian’s International partner as the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme’s public insurer, he was not prepared to go down that route.
“I am not going to sign that contract,” he said.
“Whether or not the Board now recommends the adoption of a public insurer as the way to go I will await their recommendations but certainly we are not going to send money outside of The Bahamas to mange a product which is delivered in the Bahamas. That makes absolutely no sense,” said Dr Sands.