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‘Sin Tax’ Sacrifice Needed To Fund Nhi

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Reader poll

Would you support a sin tax to pay for National Health Insurance?

  • Yes 60%
  • No 40%

189 total votes.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH officials will recommend to Cabinet that a sin tax be imposed to pay for National Health Insurance, possibly impacting the cost of items like alcohol, tobacco, lard and substances containing high-fructose corn syrup, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday.

He stressed Cabinet has not agreed to this position yet and he reiterated his long-held view that NHI cannot succeed unless Bahamians make sacrifices to support it.

“Certainly from (the Ministry of) Health, we feel so strongly about this that we are going to make the case that some of these things that are harming the lives and the health of Bahamians ought to at least be used to contribute to addressing the damage that is being created,” he said.

“So, high-fructose corn syrup, grease, call it fat, lard whatever, shouldn’t be cheap and other items, alcohol, cigarettes, which have contributed in a mighty way to the illnesses and injuries of Bahamians, they should not get a free pass.”

In the early days of NHI’s conception, when the former Christie administration relied on the advice of consultants Sanigest Internacional, a sin tax was among the proposals identified as a way to fund NHI. Sanigest suggested in a report that a payroll tax ranging from one per cent to five per cent could be imposed; it identified a sin tax on alcohol and tobacco as another option; and it said a tax on auto insurance premiums could be another possibility. Ultimately, the Christie administration insisted no new tax would be imposed, at least in the early stages of the programme, arguing to do otherwise would undermine the purpose of NHI. 

Nonetheless, Dr Sands revealed yesterday that health officials will also recommend a way to make the National Drug Prescription Plan sustainable. The plan was established in 2009 to improve access to prescription drugs and medical supplies in public and private pharmacies for chronic disease patients.

Dr Sands said: “While we have not had a Cabinet conclusion, we’ve had discussions that suggest there needs to be a sustainable funding mechanism which could include sin taxes (on) alcohol, tobacco, fat or grease, as well as the possibility of a contribution not only towards NHI, but also towards the continued sustained approach to the National Prescription Drug Plan. As you know the National Prescription Drug Plan had been funded through the medical arm of the (National Insurance Board). And although it has been phenomenally successful, there was no long-term funding strategy and that point would’ve been raised a number of times by the previous minister responsible for NIB, Shane Gibson.”

Last year, Dr Sands said the NHI Authority (NHIA) and other stakeholders would relaunch NHI by the end of 2017. In so doing, he said they would answer critical questions like how the scheme will be funded and what model will be implemented. Yesterday he expressed some disappointment that NHI has not progressed as quickly as he would have liked.

He said: “I would like it to happen as quickly as possible but it has been a stepwise approach to dealing with this.”

The legal concerns the NHIA board has about the substantial work it met in place has also not been completely addressed, Dr Sands admitted. 

“They are operating with the assurance as (previously) mentioned of the general position of the Attorney General’s Office,” he said. He was referring to the Office of the Attorney General’s legal opinion that the NHI programme cannot be reformed unless the contractual arrangements board members met in place are directly addressed. The NHI Secretariat, established by the Christie administration, executed contracts with NHI providers before the NHIA board was appointed and before various parts of the NHIA Act had come into force. Although observers in the insurance industry said this means the NHI Secretariat’s actions were unlawful and should not be ratified, the Office of the Attorney General has taken another view. The NHIA board, however, has yet to receive the written report containing that legal advice, and the board appears unwilling to make certain key decisions without it.

“Not making any apologies for the Attorney General’s Office, but they have not been able to give us the final position within the timeline that we had hoped,” Dr Sands said yesterday. “They’re obviously dealing with other matters that their office might feel is slightly more of a priority. I speak of the immigration matters and others that have consumed a lot of resources of the AG’s Office. And we’re not entirely overwhelmed with that reality but we got to push on.”

Nonetheless, Dr Sands noted the NHIA board recently announced the appointment of a managing director for the authority, Graham Whitmarsh, and has done “a tremendous amount of work to…put together the rudiments of a working plan.”

“I’m also disappointed,” he said, “and I’d like to be further along, but I can assure there has been a tremendous amount of effort being made by the appointed board.”

Comments

bogart 4 months ago

ABSOLUTELY,,!!!

This should have always been done but for some reason it appears that the politicians/ legislators have always favoured the businesses selling these harmfull health products. Why, even the NIB is a major shareholder in Commonwealth Brewery a liquor company!! Kudos to Dr Sands for looking out for the health and well being of the nation.

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hrysippus 4 months ago

To fund free health care in the Bahamas, of a standard to match that available in the UK, each and every Bahamian will have to find an additional $75 per month in taxes. Since we are a nation with such a high proportion of chronic obesity this figure, estimated on the back of an envelope, is probably much too low. Sugar should be simply banned completely, there is no reason to consume except transitory sensory pleasure and the health cost is devastating.

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Islandboy242242 4 months ago

Hmmm. Has anyone taken a look at all the food products that contain high fructose corn syrup? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/20-foods-with-high-fructose-corn-syrup#section21 Wouldn't it be a Catch 22 to impose a "sin tax" on a "VAT Free - breadbasket item" like Ketchup? I know they had proposed to re-arrange the breadbasket list but not sure Ketchup would be removed. Seems like they're just brainstorming but...

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sealice 4 months ago

so we now have to pay for the Sins of the PLP? They cost us millions even when they aren't in power......

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DDK 4 months ago

Tobacco is already 220%, plus VAT. Putting a higher tax on liquor and tobacco will surely encourage smuggling and robbery and we have enough of that as it is. Countries with an extraordinarily high "sin" tax on tobacco and alcohol always see marked increases in related smuggling and theft, the perpetrators almost always armed.

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PastorTroy 4 months ago

High-fructose corn syrup should be BANNED WORLDWIDE!!!!

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Oh lordie me, you'd thought Ma Comrade Minister Duane be bypassing the poor and near poor be's calling "Sin Tax" against sludge oil in Grand Bahama.

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BMW 4 months ago

Dont forget the likes of the fast food outlets like wendys burger king etc.

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Ma Comrade, Lordie Me, reports coming out our Motherland across the pond of Englishman's and Englishwoman's children's are crying out frustration at missing out on their chicken treats at hundreds local area KFC's having to close due shortage chicken deliveries. {Can't make this up whilst picturing our own little children's reaction shortage took place at their local KFC chickens shacks?}

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Gotoutintime 4 months ago

Man this is real chicken shit!!

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alfalfa 4 months ago

Alcohol and tobacco are already very heavily taxed. Duty on tobacco products is 200% plus stamp tax and vat. Beer is taxed at 10$ per imperial gal. that works out to 18$ per case plus tax and vat. Increasing these will negatively impact tourism as they a large consumers of both these products. Maybe the good Doctor and the Minister of Tourism should duke it out on this one. A wage deduction similar to NIB will be easier to administer and have a more defined paper trail. In addition, if National Health is as good as they say it will be, employers and employees should be happy to contribute as they can then do away with the very costly group health plans that they are burdened with. But wait, that might cause and insurance war. Mudda sic. What a quandry.

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Here's novel idea Ma Comrade Minister, tax da rich, red shirts first and leave alone picking pockets poor and near poor who does likes their indulgences from times to time.

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themessenger 4 months ago

Tal, four indulgences our poor and near poor does likes more than anyting else in da world is chicken, crabbie, liquors and numbers, all a which puttin money in da wrong set a people pocket. Why y'all don tax folks likesTiger an Sebas dem some more.

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Porcupine 4 months ago

Wouldn't a diet with more crabbie be beneficial for society? Wouldn't the cost of health care per person go down?

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alfalfa 4 months ago

Ha Ha. Messenger you are spot on. Only problem is, no one knows where these numbers taxes are going and will be going if they increase. The numbers boys have better accounting systems than Govt. and if they( the government) are such idiots as to believe they are collecting what they should; God help us. More numbers taxes equals more money for graft.. Govt. lottery is the answer there. But I agree with the love of chicken, liquor, crabbie, and numbers.

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

BOL ......... chicken, crabbie, liquor and numbers ......... plus all can food, ramen noodles, soda and white sugar, flour and rice ............. There must be a new Bahamian diet ........ yellow corn grits, boiled fish, cassava, okra, and switcher ........ All grown in The Bahamas

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The_Oracle 4 months ago

That the Successive Government administrations of the Bahamas have dumbed down the general population enough that they need a "minder" is not in dispute, but for that minder to be the Government is ludicrous as they have caused all the problems we have in the first place! anyone thinking the government can run health care needs a guided tour of BEC/BPL, Water and Sewage, the garbage dump, the PMH, Road traffic, hell every single department! Name one thing they do get right? Anyone? Anything?

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

Who owns the fast food chains and soda companies in The Bahamas???????? ............ How much money do they give back to Healthcare???? ........ VS .............. How much money do they give their favorite politicians????????? .............. smdh

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Ain't no lie we Comrade Nativelanders are in love we yellow grits. People with high sugar in blood or looking control size belly would be making healthy food choice include yellow grits diet - now, don't be adding no damn salt ya grits - salt will make earlier appointment with Undertaker Loretta. Amen!

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

There is nothing wrong with putting some native sea salt in ya grits ....... the problem is that false Morton Salt that you buy from the USA ........ watsayu?????

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Ma Comrade, whatsayu is Sea Salt does also contain sodium with only difference is that Sea Salt will more clump up inside you. I puts touch better mine while aware it known brungs on heart troubles.

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Islandgirl 4 months ago

The only sin tax you all need to be implementing is that against the numbers houses. As already stated, alcohol and tobacco are already taxed to the hilt, and further taxation can weigh on an already suffering tourism product. You need to re-visit and re-structure what the last administration did regarding gambling; massively cut down the operations of the numbers men. Establish a national lottery. Then use the funds generated by that to pay for NHI since you all are hell bent on it. It is disgraceful that a handful of men should become billionaires off the disease of gambling at the expense of the country. When those people are broke since they used their last to spin, the rest of us are left to carry the bag for them. Changes to the very lopsided gambling industry would result in wins all around. The people who want to can still gamble, perhaps we can get the money laundering accusations associated with the gambling thing behind us as a nation, and the money generated through the government run lottery won't make citizens and legal residents hurt at all or feel they are being hit by the government with taxes again.

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DDK 4 months ago

Perfect! Please e-mail a large copy directly to The PM, Minister of Health, Minister of Tourism and Minister of Gaming. We can only hope they take the time to read the comments of The People, whose time it surely is!

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becks 4 months ago

Beer is already pricey,especially our beer that is brewed right here. So is wine. Tobacco should be upped in taxes...it really serves no purpose and only inreases rates of heart disease,cancer and breathing problems as well as high blood pressure. So tax it more. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are in virtually everything so taxing those items is just another hidden VAT ttax hike. Instead they should increase the tax on cookies,candies and on actual syrups of said products such as pancake syrup,corn syrup and actual boxes of sugar. At the same time get rid of all duties and taxes,fees on fresh fruit and vegetables.

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ohdrap4 4 months ago

Corn syrup is 100 percent glucose.

High fructose corn syrup is a different product 42% minimum fructose. Most sodas use 55% fructose but cocacpla uses 65% fructose.

table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose.

Fructose increases visceral fat. from the above, corn sysrup is the healthiest.

Agave, the 'natural sugar' is the worst offender at 100% fructose.

I had to educate a doctor on agave once.

the person who makes tea or coffee or limeade at home has a healthier option by using the table sugar that drinking it from sodas. Therefore, leave the table sugar alone.

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ohdrap4 4 months ago

Furthermore, the govt is not serious, they were about to eliminate duty on sugary drinks , and when the producers of punch protested, they set it at 30%.

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