Government to set up Insurance Scheme for NIS Pensioners


A health insurance scheme for NIS pensioners is to be introduced by Government, said Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies. This initiative is one in three, which Dr. Davies said would address the concerns raised by Opposition spokesman on Health, Dr. Ken Baugh, who has called for the removal of the 15 per cent General Consumption Tax (GCT) on health insurance premiums.
“This is a very significant addition and complements Government’s own health insurance scheme, which applies to pensioners. So it will be a broadened framework, within which NIS pensioners will be provided with health coverage,” Dr. Davies told his colleagues in Parliament earlier this week (Sept. 30). While agreeing that coverage was insufficient, the Finance Minister disagreed with the call to remove the tax, contending that no country in the world had resolved the issue of how to pay for insuring the general public, including “the great United States of America, where one in four of its citizens had absolutely no coverage at all”. How best to provide resources to finance health insurance, Dr. Davies argued, remained one of the problems that have not been solved, not even by the richest countries in the world. “Let us not therefore, seek to quibble about things we both accept, that there is need for additional resources in order to provide benefits to the poor,” he said.
Noting that it was not difficult to identify the services needed, he pointed out that to provide the additional services required would call for more resources, “so you are caught in that situation, whereby we say we want more, but the question is how then do you pay for it”, he said.
Continuing, Dr. Davies said, “it is not simply enough to say we want more, as anyone can say that, but the question is how do you provide”, contending that the Government had been trying, and suggesting initiatives, which had been advanced, and which would seek to minimise the burden on the state, insofar as it concerned the provision of services to those who could afford it or partially afford it.
Another initiative cited by the Finance Minister, was the imposition of some fees at hospitals, which would go some way towards meeting the cost of providing the services. But he cautioned about the difficulties in collecting fees, citing for example, the University Hospital of the West Indies, which, despite being one of the best-organised institutions, collects fees that account for only 12 per cent of its recurrent cost. He said Mandeville Hospital was faring better with 20 per cent.
The third initiative relates to the National Health Fund, which at present is aimed at providing in the main, some of the pharmaceuticals for a restricted number of illnesses. “And that is new, it’s something we are seeking to refine,” Dr. Davies said, adding, “but again, the ability to provide a larger number of pharmaceuticals for a larger number of illnesses would be a function of the resources you can collect”.

JIS Social