Private health service providers are reportedly complaining that they are not receiving the monies owed to them by the National Health Insurance (NHI) for service rendered to patients. Meanwhile, Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie is complaining that NHI has reached a point where it is threatening to bankrupt the government. Both scenarios were explained as reasons why an urgent overall of NHI is necessary.
The discussion on the dire state of the National Health Insurance was raised by Second District Representative Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull during the 2 July sitting of the House of Assembly. Hon. Turnbull told legislators that practitioners expect to get paid because they are running a business, not a charity. “Mr. Speaker what you are hearing on the street is sometimes six months they haven’t received a payment from NHI. This is not now, I am not talking about just now.”
The legislator explained that the medical service providers have staff and expense of their own that their services pay for and he noted that the extremely late payment of NHI is having a trickle-down effect.
Hon. Turnbull laid the blame of the current situation with the National Health Insurance at the feet of both the current and the former government. He told the House, “It’s not just this administration, it’s the last, but this administration now since being in power for these 15 almost 16 months now has a responsibility to pay into the system; so that the system could pay the providers; and pay it on time.”
Further, the Second District Representative explained that no one in the BVI would be happy if the private practitioners stopped accepting NHI. “If they take a step that they are not accepting NHI you are going to hear a war cry; and that is the reality on the ground Mr. Speaker. The reality on the ground is that we have a system that should work, that could work, but it has to be funded properly.”
In noting how unsustainable the current situation of compensation to the private providers is the legislators noted: “When the government pays its part of it [NHI] six months late it might as well don’t pay it at all, because if I pay six months late I am only catching up on six months outstanding but we have gone forward another six months.”
Hon. Turnbull said that numerous things affect NHI which legislators don’t lament about. However, he said that at this time solutions are required. “What we do is that we complain that the NHI is not working. We complain that the NHI is no good; and the NHI costing us a trailer load of money.”
The concern of Hon. Turnbull regarding NHI was addressed by Minister for Natural Resources Hon. Vincent Wheatley who told the House: “NHI happens to fall under my responsibility right now and I can assure the Hon. Member that that problem will be addressed and resolved. He will not have a chance again to come back in the House and complain about what’s underfunded and what was meant to work and what wasn’t meant to work.”
Further, the Minister said, “I am aware of the NHI problem and we are working towards some sustainable solutions towards NHI…We are aware of the issues with NHI and why they exist and some ideas as to how we are going to fix them and we will fix them. We are coming to the House [of Assembly]later on with some ideas to tackle some of those issues.”
In his contribution to the conversation, Premier Fahie agreed that the current state of the NHI is unsustainable and he mentioned that the system threatens to bankrupt the government. Hon. Fahie told legislators, “It’s $42 million now — because of it not starting correctly — that we have to fork out every year as a government into NHI, and with COVID-19 it hasn’t gotten any less.”
While emphasizing the dire state of the Insurance the Premier said, “NHI never catch itself from then to now and as a matter of fact, the Minister of Natural Resources said it completely; if it is not reviewed, it will bankrupt the British Virgin Islands.”
As a means of remedying the situation Hon. Fahie disclosed that one million dollars from the Social Security Grant will go towards revising NHI to make it profitable.