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NHI eyed for 2014

  • Perry Gomez. FILE

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: May 02, 2013

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Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez said yesterday he expects a national health insurance plan (NHI) to be in place a year from now.

However, Gomez said it is too early to say how much it will cost the government or how much the workforce will have to contribute through national insurance to sustain it.

Gomez spoke to The Nassau Guardian shortly after he told the House of Assembly that a 12-person steering committee will be established to oversee NHI’s implementation.

“I look forward to somewhere in a year’s time,” Gomez said about NHI’s expected execution date. “We are looking at that time frame, a year from now because they are just getting established, so I think it will take us a year or so to get it all together.”

Before the May 2012 general election, Gomez pledged to implement NHI within one year of being elected.

When asked how much NHI will cost, he said: “We don’t know yet because the data we have, what we had from the first report, is nearly 10 years old and that’s why we have to do some work.”

He said one of the first things the committee will be tasked with is figuring out how much NHI will cost and how much is currently being spent in the public healthcare system.

He added: “This is a participatory scheme. Everybody who is working will have to contribute a portion of their salary. I think we had estimated around 10 years ago, four percent, of salary was the fee [to be taxed].

“So we don’t know what will be recommended by the committee. The cost of health has gone up, salaries haven’t gone up that much and so on. That’s the kind of stuff the committee has to do.”

Opposition leader and former Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis questioned the need for another committee on NHI and doubted that the group will be effective.

He said the PLP has done enough preparatory work for the plan.

“I think this steering committee [was created] to fool the public into thinking they are doing something,” Minnis told The Nassau Guardian. “It is a pipedream and a smokescreen for all the mess they are creating.

“If it reports, nothing will happen, the only thing the committee can tell them is what we knew already.”

The first Christie administration appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission in 2002 to look at the feasibility of creating NHI.

Gomez chaired the commission.

In 2006, Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Act, but the plan was never implemented.

The former Christie administration said NHI could cost an estimated $235 million annually.

Gomez said last year the cost will “undoubtedly” be higher than initially expected.

In 2012, then Free National Movement Senator Dr. Duane Sands predicted that it could cost up to $750 million to implement NHI.

Gomez said his ministry will get international help for NHI’s groundwork. He said the local branch of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has already given assistance.

Gomez told the House of Assembly NHI is envisaged as a not-for-profit national health system that would allow residents to access public and private healthcare.

Dr. Delon Brennen, the Ministry of Health’s deputy chief medical officer, will chair the steering committee.

Other proposed members include Etoile Pinder, health economist; Dr. Baldwin Carey and Dr. Kevin Bowe, deputy director of medical services at the National Insurance Board.

Anthony Kikivarakis, chartered accountant; Edison Sumner, president of the Chamber of Commerce; John Pinder, Bahamas Public Service Union president; Dr. Wesley Francis; Dr. Percival McNeil; Archbishop Drexel Gomez and Dr. Valentine Grimes are also proposed members.

Gomez said the committee has not yet met.

He said the group will be supported by three sub-committees: A review committee, a health system strengthening committee and a finance committee.

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