Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
180 total votes.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE National Health Insurance Authority has shaved down its proposed salary tax to fund universal healthcare by a half percent in its updated policy paper on the contributory scheme.
The new proposed policy removes the 50 percent cap on employee contributions, and also raises the threshold for small businesses required to participate in the scheme by $150k, according to an NHIA statement obtained by The Tribune, which announced the proposed contribution rate has been reduced to 1.5 percent of monthly income.
It also proposes to expand its standard health benefits package to include paediatric cancer. The changes will now be presented to Cabinet for review.
Fielding questions from reporters on the matter yesterday, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said: “There has been a number of very very good suggestions. I am not minded to reveal what those suggestions have been at this point. Suffice it to say, it’ll be presented to the Cabinet of the Bahamas and then after that discussion, we’ll have an opportunity to present it to the public.”
Dr Sands added: “We are going to be open and transparent but I would rather not preempt the Cabinet of the Bahamas and its deliberations with a little snippet here, a little leak there, etc. We will be very open with the recommendations, the changes suggested, the timelines the costs, the benefits package, etc.”
The contributory scheme, initially announced by the NHIA last October, called for all working Bahamians to contribute two percent of their salary or 50 percent of the premium - whichever is lower - to purchase the scheme’s Standard Health Benefit (SHB) or minimum level of coverage.
Under the old proposal, monthly contributions for those legally in the Bahamas earning $30,000 or more were expected to be capped at $42.
The SHB package’s initial “regulated premium cost” of $1,000 per year remains unchanged.
The NHIA has scheduled a press conference concerning policy changes for Thursday, and the statement obtained by The Tribune is dated January 31.
The NHIA statement read: “The new proposed policy changes will include a reduction in the contribution rate. More specifically, employers will be able to collect 1.5 percent of monthly income, lowered from two percent up to the standard premium rate with employers paying the balance.
“This will be combined with a removal of the 50 percent cap for contribution by employees towards their premium cost, which will see higher paid employees to contribute more and reduce the burden on businesses. The standard premium rate has not changed and is expected to be $1,000 per person per year.
“In addition,” the NHIA statement read, “we propose a reduction in the number of small businesses required to purchase health insurance on behalf of their employees by increasing the revenue threshold from $100,000 to a higher amount, $250,000. These policy changes overall mean that we have reduced the burden on both individuals and businesses.
“The new direction proposes to expand on the benefits package by increasing the standard health benefits to include paediatric cancers, a recognised concern among the stakeholders.”
The scheme’s SHB launch is slated for April to July 2019; July 2019 for a sugary drink tax and national wellness programme; a January 2020 launch of the employer mandate/two per cent deductions for businesses with 100 or more employees; and January 2021 employer mandate expansion for all employers and deadline for all grandfathered private insurance plans.
The changes reflect feedback collected during stakeholder consultations, in which there were 14 town hall meetings hosted throughout the country.
The NHIA team reportedly met with more than 500 participants, and some 80 individual stakeholders, Dr Sands said yesterday.
There was also an online consultation survey for persons who reviewed the policy paper online to give feedback, and a total of 33 forms were submitted.