Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser has criticized the Government for allegedly proceeding with the National Health Insurance plan albeit alleged unanswered questions.
Speaking at his annual public meeting which was held on 22 May in Sea Cows Bay, Hon. Fraser told the gathering that all is not clear in relation to the Health Insurance Plan: “The government has decided to press ahead with their agenda by launching their National Health Insurance Plan, despite being unable to answer many important questions, chief of which is whether the Territory’s economy can survive the burden of another Social Security style deduction in the amount of 7½ per cent in a time like now when our economy is still in freefall.”
According to Hon. Fraser there are no answers on whether the Plan will be accepted overseas, and how readily. “We need to know whether there is a re-insurer onboard. I must point out that from a series of questions I asked in the House of Assembly, the Minister for Health offered that expenditure under the plan for the first year will be $70,788,000. And went on to explain that the program will be funded by government to the tune of $39,273,000, and contributions from citizens in the Plan of $28,825,000, and a further anticipated amount of $6,210,000 from investments.”
“I warn that Social Security lost $40,000,000 through investments in 2008. Point is, returns on investments are not guaranteed. As you can see, businesses will have to sustain an additional $28,825,000 over and above all other deductions, hence my question. Nowhere must it be said that I am not in favour of the idea of a National Health Insurance Plan, but what should be said is whether it was researched exhaustively,” the Legislator stated.
The National Health Insurance (NHI) legislation, which was highly consulted, and heavily debated was passed with amendments in the House of Assembly on 8 April, 2014.
In presenting the Bill to the House Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton, became very emotional as he recalled that a few years ago he was very ill, and required a very costly medical procedure to save his life.
This is a predicament in which many Virgin Islanders and residents find themselves in when their health dramatically deteriorates and requires medical health services not available in the BVI. Such unexpected medical costs could reach catastrophic proportions whereby the ill person and his/her family cannot afford the astronomic sums required.
Hon. Skelton stated that had it not been for health insurance, and the support of family and friends he might not have been here today. Therefore, he noted that he is very concerned about the large part of the BVI population who are without insurance.
The Health Minister explained that approximately 65 percent of the residents in the British Virgin Islands are without medical insurance, and opined that the passage of the Bill will make it possible for all legal residents of the Territory to have equal access to quality healthcare at a cost that is not prohibitive.
He pointed out that at present, many residents turn to their elected representatives for assistance with their medical expenses and that the NHI will eliminate the need for such dependence. Hon. Skelton also noted that the NHI might not be implemented until October, because there are certain administrative tune-ups that need to be put in place before implementation.