Published On: Wed, Mar 27th, 2019

Minister Lee: Too many residents cannot access health insurance with our current system

Minister of VSA Emil Lee - 20 Mar 2019

POND ISLAND — During the council of Ministers’ press briefing of Wednesday March 27th, Minister Lee outlined several examples of groups of persons who fall in between the cracks of the current health insurance system, facing challenges in accessing health insurance. These groups include sole proprietors, persons working less than 5 days, persons earning above the ZV wage limit, persons who are under insured via private insurance, persons who do not qualify for private insurance based on age or pre-existing conditions etc. At present, persons who cannot access health insurance become reliant on the Government. “This might not show up on our ledgers as a health care expense but it shows up in Government’s expenditures over all.”

It may seem as though private health insurance is always an alternative, however it is a fact that the policies of many of private insurance companies expire by a particular age, which is roughly around the time of retirement. This is also the time that people start to make more use of health insurance based on their medical condition. As we age, the wear and tear on our bodies causes us to need more medical interventions. Once the elderly person no longer has health insurance for any reason and medical problems develop, more often than not they come to government for assistance. Based on humanitarian treaties, it is an obligation of government to offer this assistance.

According to Minister Lee, with General Health Insurance a lot of this financial burden to government and residents can be alleviated. The idea behind it being that everybody pays his or her fair contribution. Everyone gets access to affordable medical insurance, and quality medical care. This we believe is a basic human right. Minister Lee made clear that: “General Health Insurance, it is not free. Everyone has a right. Everyone has to pay. Everyone who has an income will contribute his or her fair share. Everyone registered census will be entitled.”

“… insurance is not a sexy topic …”

“The healthy working class does not easily talk or think about health insurance. In general, insurance is not a sexy topic within the community. Until something happens, you find out what the financial consequences are of not having insurance. We need to learn from our mistakes and improve on how we approach the topic of insurance. Take hurricane season for example, we have been through Irma and still feel the financial consequences of being not insured or under insured for our homes and valuables. Will we do better or forget about it over time? As a community we as a “social” country are responsible for ensuring that there sufficient taxes to cover Government expenditures. Which ultimately translates into us as a community paying. So let’s manage it properly!” – Minister Lee, VSA

The current laws mandating the health insurance system are outdated. The economic climate of Sint Maarten has changed, demographics of our people have changed and with that, the medical needs and costs. These changes force a shift in the way government manages health care costs while ensuring access to quality health care for its residents. The draft GHI legislation which will be presented to Parliament will include that the current groups of people that are now challenged to access health care because of no medical insurance, these people will be ‘covered’ under GHI.

Over the past weeks, the Ministry of VSA has hosted several stakeholder sessions in collaboration with representatives of PAHO on the topic of General Health Insurance implementation for Sint Maarten. Next month, PAHO representatives will return to meet with the Council of Ministers and Members of Parliament to provide them with information and expand their knowledge concerning the general principles of universal health insurance.

“These sessions have been and will continue to be very informative and really a two-way conversation. And a great opportunity for us as a Ministry to get feedback on the needs and to be able to do something with this input. In addition, we are also working on a marketing strategy to help inform the public about the specifics concerning GHI.” – Minister Lee, VSA

Persons who are still interested in engaging in these types of conversations with the Ministry of VSA can contact the Ministry of Cabinet of VSA directly for information. “We as a Ministry are definitely committed to delivering quality health care close to home and as I mentioned in the past it’s also important that that health care is affordable and accessible to all. And having proper health insurance is a key part of that.”

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