Authority to present findings to govt.
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – In the wake of widespread public criticism, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Authority embarked on a three-month public consultation campaign to gather feedback on what changes should be made to the proposed insurance.
Graham Whitmarsh, Managing Director and CEO of NHI Authority, told Eyewitness News Online on Thursday that the aggressive consultation process was needed to ensure that both employers and employees had their views heard concerning NHI’s proposed roll-out.
“We’ve been out for the last three months talking to business groups, the public and stakeholder groups; having discussions on who should pay more or whether the employee should pay more and we have heard both sides of the argument and we have enough feedback now where you can rest assured that we will be suggesting changes to the overall formula,” Whitmarsh said.
“I think these changes are overall beneficial because they’re based on some really good feedback and I think that we will be in a position to roll that out within the next few weeks.
“But, obviously we need to have a discussion with government first to make sure that they understand the proposal now that we have had the chance to go out and speak to the public and various stakeholders.”
When the NHI Authority announced its intent to roll-out a 2 per cent deductible to salaried workers to fund the national healthcare scheme, many Bahamians opposed the idea – many considered it a tax and staunchly opposed.
In the weeks following that announcement the NHI Authority embarked on a public awareness campaign in an effort to further explain how the proposed 2 per cent deduction was not a tax.
To date, Whitmarsh said convincing the public that the deduction is not a tax is still an uphill battle.
“Just to be clear, the two per cent contribution that employees make goes to pay for a private health insurance for which they are the beneficiary,” Whitmarsh noted.
“It does not come to the government, nor NHI, and if you don’t get your insurance through your employer then you will be able to access services free of charge without any contribution from NHI because NHI will be funded by the government to provide those services to you.”
Whitmarsh said once the plan has been ironed out, redrafted, presented to government, approved and implemented; Bahamians will see the true benefit and worth.
“This will ensure that every legal resident will have access to the NHI package of benefits, either through their employer or through NHI and this will mean that nobody who gets one of the cancers that are covered or one of the high-cost care conditions will suffer any financial hardship as a result of getting ill because they will have no co-pay and no deductible,” Whitmarsh said.
“Also, very importantly, in future those conditions will not be able to be used as a preexisting condition that will stop them from getting insurance.”
Whitmarsh touted that the country’s economy is also poised to gain a much-needed injection once the NHI plans are rolled out.
“The two are very linked; if you want to have a strong sustainable economy, then investments in healthcare can play a significant role in that.”