Myers: NHI 2% payroll tax “lazy and irresponsible”

Myers: NHI 2% payroll tax “lazy and irresponsible”

While expressing support for universal healthcare in The Bahamas, Organization for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) Council Chairman and Co-Chair of Economic Development Robert Myers said it is “lazy and it is irresponsible” for the government to further burden taxpayers to fund National Health Insurance (NHI) with its two per cent payroll deduction.

Myers said despite assertions to the contrary, the funding mechanism is a tax.

He said the government ought to find alternative means to fund the universal healthcare scheme, but this will require some heavy lifting.

“Stop putting the burden on the citizens, on the public and start looking within,” Myers said.

“National Health Insurance is another good example.

“We’re very pro National Health Insurance, but not at the expense again [of the people].

“If your only solution is to go back to the citizenry and tax it again – and I don’t care what they want to call it –  it’s a tax. If the government by legislative authority is demanding that a citizen pay for a social service it’s a tax.”

Last month, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) proposed a two percent payroll deduction with an employer contribution component to fund NHI, a move it has proposed implementing in January 2020 for companies with more than 100 employees.

Based on the authority’s policy paper, an individual who makes $10,000 per year, for example, would contribute $17 per month, while their employer would contribute $67 per month.

According to the NHIA, the two percent contribution by some employees is not a tax as it will go directly to private insurers to pay for the standard health benefit (SHB), not the government.

The SHB under NHI, a minimum package of healthcare that would include expanded primary care and high cost care for certain illnesses, is expected to cost taxpayers $100 million per year.

The financing for NHI, which requires Cabinet approval, is not set in stone, according to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands. But Myers challenged the government to do the “hard work” and tighten up on inefficiencies and wastage lurking in government departments and institutions to cover that expense.

“They don’t want to do the hard work, which is to go back in and get the $100 million from the Public Hospitals Authority that it is wasting in its inefficiency…,” Myers claimed.

“Those inefficiencies have got to start being a factor in the government’s ability to correct the economic and financial woes of the country.

“It cannot just [be] your only solution is to tax. That’s lazy and it’s irresponsible.”

The authority has proposed launching the SHB package between April and July, 2019.

While the NHIA continues its consultative rounds with various stakeholders, there has been concerns in some quarters relating to the cost of the program and its funding.