St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN); “…Because of the rise in chronic diseases in our population and the high cost of putting all the facilities and services of the right quality in place, government alone can’t cover the cost of care for everyone; It will bankrupt individuals and it will bankrupt government as well.”
So says Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton during a session of the National Assembly on Thursday (Aug 10), speaking to the cost concerns of implementing the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme.
He said the government would be able to financially support such a plan however, as the nation’s health tab is nearing 200 million dollars annually.
“Can St. Kitts and Nevis afford this? Yes, Mr. Speaker. St. Kitts and Nevis is already spending a significant amount on healthcare. The 2011 national health statistics show that we spent over $117 million on healthcare in the federation. The projections up to this year show that we are somewhere n the vicinity of $180 million.
“So can we afford it- we’re already spending that across this nation. It is a harmonization of that and efficiencies in the system that will help us to be able to deliver these services and reducing the cost to do so.”
With government unable to bear the full cost of such a scheme however, the Minister said they are looking at having persons make financial contributions to the plan.
“There’s therefore a need to find a mechanism to share contributions for the healthcare across the country for those who can and cannot pay, for all persons who will seek care not only locally but perhaps internationally.”
Mr. Hamilton explained how a national health scheme would function.
“How will it work? We expect all eligible persons, residents in the federation as well, to be registered under this scheme and contributions may be shared with employers and in some cases government. We expect the NHI agencies to sign contracts with the health service providers, like the hospital and the doctors’ offices, to be on the program to provide the services.
“When health care is needed the members visit their health professionals, their practitioners and present their membership card. We expect the bills to reach the services of the NHI and to be paid.”
The government will now move into the public consultation phase as part of a national education drive to sensitize the public to the workings of a National Health Insurance scheme. Minister Hamilton did not specify an envisioned implementation date for the scheme, with the initial tentative start date of late 2016 having come and gone.