Accelerate national health insurance scheme — Insurance Association


Accelerate national health insurance scheme — Insurance Association

Observer Business Writer

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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Given the ballooning cost for health care in Jamaica especially since the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ) is calling on the Government to accelerate the national health insurance scheme.

The much-talked-about national health insurance scheme for Jamaica has been on the mind of successive Administrations but only since the health financing reform initiated in 2008 with the no-user-fee policy in public facilities, has there been any serious attempt put in place to introduce such a system.

The current Andrew Holness Administration has been talking about introducing the National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP) to increase overall resources for the health sector, increase efficiency in the use of available resources, promote sustainable health care financing, and improve the quality and coverage of health services.

The IAJ says the introduction of the NHIP is a dire necessity at this time given the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on national resources.

Some six-billion dollars have been budgeted this fiscal year to tackle the pandemic, with just over half of the budgeted amount of $3.8 billion already spent fighting the coronavirus.

Over 700 cases have been detected locally, with 10 deaths so far. Speaking with the Business Observer SundayFinance recently, IAJ President Vernon James made a case for the Government to accelerate the planned national health insurance cheme.

Pointing to the vast number of Jamaicans that are at risk because they do not have health insurance, James argued that the absence of a national health insurance scheme is making matters worse. He stated that only one-third of the Jamaican workforce and just over a quarter of the entire population has health insurance coverage.

The IAJ President made the point that access to health insurance is a national good whilst urging the Holness Administration to step up the pace in having a national health insurance scheme in Jamaica for Jamaicans.

IAJ Executive Director Orville Johnson shared his observation with the Business Observer Sunday Finance regarding the handling of COVID-19 among countries across the globe.

“Across the world the countries that have national health insurance schemes such as those in Europe, Canada, and Australia have made out better with COVID-19 than somewhere like the United States; hence the clamour for a universal health insurance system,” Johnson said.

He added that the insurance industry in Jamaica is very sensitive about what is happening with COVID-19.

Johnson argued, “With the pandemic there is a built up demand for health insurance that is going to happen, and we are gearing up and getting ready for it.”

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton last year tabled a green paper in Parliament on the proposed national health insurance scheme for Jamaica for public discussion.

The NHIP proposal has three central components: Focus on funding through pooling of funds, a membership guarantee and entitlement modality, and definition of a basket of services.

The equity proposition is where the poor will receive as much as the rich while the needy will receive much more than they can afford to contribute.

The key to universal health coverage is the pooling of public and private resources, service provision in public and private facilities, with a reciprocal commitment between management and membership for accountability and responsiveness.

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