Despite not stating what the impending changes entail, Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Marlon Penn was very firm in his 7 June House of Assembly declaration statement that some overhauling will be done to the National Health Insurance (NHI).
Since its inception, various Ministers of Health have noted that there were measures that should have been in place in the NHI structure that would have to be added. Others mention of there being a need for additional financing. It is however, unclear as to which of the many issues with NHI the current Minister is intent on fixing, what is clear is that these amendments will be done soon.
Hon. Penn during his reference to the issues facing the NHI stated that the situation has worsened to the point where there is an urgency. “Madam Speaker, NHI has had its challenges from its inception it continues to have its challenges, and Madam Speaker that has been escalated to the Ministry since February of this year, and the reality Madam Speaker we have to act and we have to act swiftly.”
Hon. Penn said that not only is the government now forced to take action to fix this vital programme, but that the remedy might not be pleasing to all. He stated: “We have to make some very tough and uncomfortable and unpopular decisions as it relates to NHI.”
Nonetheless, the Minister of Health said that he is committed to fixing NHI. “Madam Speaker, I am committed. I know the Premier and his Government are committed to making those decisions because it is important for us to maintain NHI and its benefits to the population in terms of delivering health care and health services to the people of this Territory, Madam Speaker.”
Hon. Penn while omitting further financial disclosures about the matter at hand, did mention that action needs to be taken to ensure that persons who have been delinquent in their NHI payments become up to date. “We have to ensure that those persons who have been neglecting their obligations to pay into the system pay into the system,” he noted.
“Based on the numbers that I have seen if persons who are obligated to pay into the system have paid into the system NHI would be in the black currently based on the existing numbers that I have seen. We have to ensure that persons are in compliance with their obligations to NHI,” Hon. Penn added.