…Minister draws attention to diet and eating habits
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE long-promised Universal Health Insurance (UHI) can have legislation tabled in Parliament as early as the second quarter of 2022, as the Government continues with the review and specialty input process.
Under the UHI initiative, citizens and residents would have access to a platform that covers their insurance bills, but the Government is currently working out the parameters of how to implement the programme and how the cost will be borne by citizens.
During his recent Budget presentation, Eugene Hamilton, Minister with Responsibility for the programme, provided an update on the UHI, where he disclosed in Parliament that with the assistance from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Government has been able to contract a draftsman who is currently in the process of working to provide appropriate legislative drafts to Cabinet for possible tabling in Parliament.
That individual has been engaged since September this year and is expected to provide a framework on how it should be implemented, who bears the brunt of the cost, how much will the Government input be among other legislative parameters.
“And if my estimation is correct, by the first quarter of 2022 we will be in a position to present to Cabinet and say, ‘Cabinet this is what it is, this is the proposed legislation, this is the cost if you do A, the cost if you do B, the cost if you do C,’” he explained.
The Government, through Minister Hamilton since its first term in office, has promised to implement the Universal Health Insurance due to the rising cost of treatment and the increasing number of people needing to seek specialty treatment overseas.
Compounding the challenge for the Government with the implementation of the UHI is the rising number of Non-Communicable Disease cases in the Federation and how those people will fit into the programme. The concern is that the high numbers could put a strain on the programme.
The Minister believes that the programme should not be seen as an initiative to cover bills, but rather to change lifestyles to minimize the growing problem.
“I look at it as universal health must be used to change lifestyles, change habits, let you understand what all of the challenges are when you use a certain kind of product irresponsibly.
“I want you to recognize that you have to pay attention to diet and exercise; and while universal health is about health, I want those focuses to come because my belief is that if we focus on the way we are going now, sadly the cost for medical services could bankrupt an individual and bankrupt a family, and bankrupt a nation,” Hamilton said.
Against that backdrop, Minister Hamilton posited that if the necessary changes were to be made then the cost of the programme would decrease, resulting in less strain on it overall.
The Government received assistance from the University of the West Indies Economics Unit to research and have national consultations on the way forward for the programme, with inputs from civil society and the private sector.
Additionally, teams were sent to several islands to get first hand knowledge and operational experience how similar initiatives are working across the region.