THE REASON THE PM ANNOUNCED “NO TAXES” FOR NHI, IS THAT HE IS NOT DOING NHI RIGHT NOW AT ALL. Prime Minister Christie NEVER announced in his Budget Communication that the government was going to start giving us insurance coverage to pay for our healthcare as of January. All he announced is that they were going to look at improving PMH and PUBLIC HEALTH, and they would talk with private insurance companies for ideas on how to do NHI AT SOME POINT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.
1 – INSURANCE IS NOT A SPEECH. FIXING UP PMH IS NOT INSURANCE. National Health Insurance involves paying a premium (payroll tax) for coverage of part or all of your medical expenses for treatment whether through public or private doctors. THAT IS WHAT INSURANCE IS. And for the government to get into the insurance-provider business, IT MUST DO SO THROUGH LEGISLATION (an Act of Parliament). No NHI Bill was tabled with the Budget, and none was announced for a later date, meaning NO INSURANCE BY THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE PROVIDED ANYTIME SOON. NIB, for example, was created through an Act of Parliament. That is how the National Insurance Board came to exist to give you health and employment benefits. NIB did not become NIB simply by Prime Minister Pindling giving a speech. When the Prescription Drug Program became a benefit through NIB last term, LEGISLATION WAS NEEDED FOR THAT TO HAPPEN, and that legislation was tabled and passed. That’s how you can take your Drug Benefit Card to any registered pharmacy – public or private – and get your medications for specified illnesses.
2 – ALL BAHAMIANS & RESIDENTS ALREADY GET TAX-SPONSORED PUBLIC HEALTHCARE. The government put $60 million extra (of our tax dollars) in the Ministry of Health’s Budget, which they claim would be for “phase 1” of NHI. Remember, INSURANCE is the payment of a premium for coverage of part or all of your medical expenses, whether public or private. That cannot be done through the Ministry of Health’s Budget where that $60 million was placed. The Ministry of Health does not pay people’s medical bills. National Health Insurance is a registered, contributory scheme (like NIB) that has to be done through a HEALTH INSURANCE MECHANISM THE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT CREATED THROUGH LEGISLATION YET. All the Ministry of Health can/should do with that extra $60 million is use it toward fixing up PUBLIC HOSPITALS, CLINICS & THEIR SERVICES THAT ALREADY PROVIDE US FREE and/or SMALL-FEE HEALTHCARE through all the taxes we are ALREADY paying. THAT IS NOT HEALTH INSURANCE – THAT IS SIMPLY IMPROVING WHAT WE ARE ALREADY SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING AT PUBLIC HOSPITALS AND CLINICS. If NHI ever begins, such improvements beforehand would be essential. Meantime, since that $60 million was put into a single, non-specific line item of the Budget, we do not know what will in fact be done with all that money. The line item isn’t even called NHI at all. It is under “Grants, Fixed Charges & Special Financial Transactions” (Block 90, Head 60).
3 – Since the 2015/2016 Budget is A GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN BUDGET, that is why the PM said they would do NHI “over the next 5 years.” In other words, he was CAMPAIGNING through his speech, NOT GIVING YOU INSURANCE COVERAGE. He is telling us that he plans to do NHI when he thinks we will elect him again for another term. The same NHI he said he would’ve given us in this same term, he now says he will do next time if we give him another chance to swing us with that promise again. NHI is a good thing if done properly; through transparent, comprehensive planning, consultation, preparation, resources and expertise. THOSE THINGS TAKE MANY HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND A LOT OF TIME. Something this critical to the nation’s stability should never be used as a campaign ploy. And it certainly cannot work without legislated autonomy that guards against political interference, Ministerial incompetence or playing favorites with health coverage based on a person’s connections, political or otherwise.
AND BY THE WAY – HOW MUCH OF OUR MONEY DID THE GOVERNMENT SPEND ON THAT COSTA RICAN CONSULTANCY FIRM (SANIGEST) REPORT ON NHI? AND WHY DID THE GOVERNMENT MAKE PEOPLE WHO RECEIVED IT SIGN A CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT SWEARING NOT TO REVEAL IT TO THE PUBLIC? IF THAT REPORT IS THE SO-CALLED RESEARCH BEHIND NHI, WHY DOESN’T CABINET WANT THE PUBLIC TO SEE IT? OUR TAX DOLLARS PAID FOR IT, SO WHY HASN’T THE GOVERNMENT TABLED THAT REPORT IT CLAIMS IT IS USING AS ITS GUIDE TO PLAN NHI?