Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The High Cost Reality of National Health Insurance (NHI) in The Bahamas

NHI roll-out ‘could take years’

Guardian Staff Reporter

While the government has said it will implement National Health Insurance in January 2016, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson suggested yesterday it could take several years to fully implement that plan.

Gibson, who has ministerial responsibility for the National Insurance Board, said it is “impossible” to roll out the entire plan in just over a year, but the government will introduce it in phases.

“National Health Insurance is not something that you can implement wholly on one day,” he said following a press conference to announce Public Service Week.

“You can begin the process of implementation and you would generally have to implement it in phases.

“We have some countries where it took them as much as 10 years to fully implement.

“We are looking at implementing it on January 2016, [but] it is impossible to have it implemented 100 percent on a particular day over this short period of time.”

NHI is intended to provide universal access to affordable healthcare for all Bahamians.

The first Christie administration had pegged the cost of NHI at around $235 million annually, but the government has said it will cost a lot more.

Before the May 2012 general election, now Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez pledged NHI would be implemented within the first year of a new Progressive Liberal Party term.

Gibson said the roll-out could be similar to that of the National Prescription Drug Plan, which was introduced in phases.

Sanigest Internacional, a Costa Rican-based firm contracted by the government to advise on NHI costing, has said it is “plausible” in some scenarios for NHI to cost more than $500 million.

Asked about that figure and the status of Sanigest’s costing report, Gibson said he plans to meet with officials this week to discuss the plan.

The consultants submitted a draft report in August.

October 21, 2014