Published On: Wed, Jan 10th, 2018

Consumer Coalition met with SMMC for discussion about tariffs increase

Cay Hill — The Sint Maarten Consumer Coalition was invited by management of the Sint Maarten Medical Center to give background and explanations for the tariff increase announced by SMMC as per January 1st. The Consumer Coalition in their press release expressed concern about the consequences of the 41.8% tariff increase and its effect on the insured at SZV and the private insurance companies, as well as the taxpayers from Sint Maarten. They also wanted to know what quality of services the consummers would get in return.

~SMMC wants COLA for the tariffs of 41.8% ~

These are the positions defended by management of the SMMC and the delegation of the Sint Maarten Consumer Coalition in the meeting which was held on Tuesday January 9th at SMMC.

Director of the SMMC, Dr. Klarenbeek. explained that the SMMC foundation is a non-profit foundation that has to cover the increasing costs of the health care services that they provide and that adjusting the tariffs which since 2004 have not been adjusted was inevitable. “Actually the tariffs had to be increased with 150%” he said. But SMMC has reached an agreement with SZV and the Ministry of VSA to only increase with the price index increase from 2004 till 2017 the so-called Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) of 41.8%.

Medical Director, Dr. Felix Holiday, and Care Manager, Tony Pantophlet, gave illustrations of how the SMMC has expanded its services and has improved its quality to satisfy the customers from here and from abroad who visit our island and make use of the services of the SMMC.

Co-coordinator of the Consumer Coalition, drs. Raymond Jessurun, informed SMMC management how the Seniors and Pensioners Association, the Windward Island Chamber of Labor Unions and the SUNFED United NGO Federation, the last decade have been championing the right to accessible and affordable health care of the highest attainable level in Sint Maarten for all. In stakeholders meetings for a National Health Insurance we have advocated for this level of healthcare as we have this same right as all other citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Co-coordinator Alberto Bute argued that the Medical Center is to be applauded for their effort to improve the quality and expand the services to reduce medical referrals abroad, but wanted to know more about which quality standards and benchmarks the medical center was implementing.

Co-coordinator of the Consumer Coalition, Raymond Jessurun, took the daily tariff for one day in the third class of SMMC as an example of their concern about the tariff increase. The 41.8 % tariff increase results in a daily tariff to lay in the third class which is almost double the one published on the website of the SEHOS, the general hospital in Curacao! Why we have to pay double to be treated in the SMMC if we have been going to SEHOS in Curacao and still can go for half the daily tariff of the SMMC?

Before 10-10-10 SMMC as peripheral hospital was allowed tariffs to a maximum of 70% of the tariffs of the general hospital in Curacao. After 10-10-10 the expectation was that SMMC which was now allowed to develop into a general hospital for Sint Maarten could increase the tariffs to the same level as the general hospital in Curacao. With the tariff list of SMMC for 2018 do we have to pay double the tariffs of the general hospital of Curacao?

Consumer Coalition wants to prevent increase in health insurance premiums

The Consumer Coalition therefore wants to dialogue with the SMMC about alternative financing to increase the income for the SMMC and to lower the premiums for the consumers in Sint Maarten.

Jessurun referred to the fact that 75% of the households in Sint Maarten are in poverty with an household income of less than 4000 ANG or 2200 USD a month. Increasing cost of living and in that context increasing the tariffs for health care services means an increase in premiums, which is unsustainable for the majority of the consumers of St Maarten and a high progressive burden for the 25% with an income of more than the 4000 ANG a month!

Management of SMMC is willing to continue the dialogue with the representatives of the Consumer Coalition in the interest of the consumers in Sint Maarten and the improvement of the services and in the interest of covering the costs of the medical institution.

The Consumer Coalition is awaiting meetings with Minister Lee about the national decree to change the tariffs of SMMC and with the private insurance companies to defend the rights of the consumers to affordable premiums for quality health care in Sint Maarten.