National health insurance financed by NIS unwise at this time – Gonsalves
January 30, 2015
National health insurance financed by NIS unwise at this time – Gonsalves

It is unlikely that the National Insurance Services (NIS) will add national health insurance to their offerings of benefits anytime soon.

In the presentation of the 2015 National Budget this week, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said in 2015,{{more}} the health sector will come under review as the government aims to modernize it through various reforms.

The prime minister highlighted that while it is often proposed that there should be a national health insurance system financed by increased contributions from employers and employees, the suggestion requires more in depth discussions.

“Our government is satisfied that a rush to a national health insurance financed through enhanced contributions to the NIS is unwise, at this time, in an economy and population size, including the employed population that we have in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.

This conclusion, he said, is as a result of comparative readings and advice rendered by informed specialists.

He added that in the government’s view, the NIS should focus its attention on their core mandates which include retirement, sickness, maternity and invalidity benefits.

At present, 10 per cent of an employee’s wages is contributed to the NIS. Of this, five percent is paid by the employer and five per cent deducted from the employee’s salary.

“It is unlikely that the increased NIS contributions would be able to finance a package of health coverage beyond the most basic or elemental which has long been the obligation of the State to finance through general taxation,” said the prime minister.

Gonsalves however suggested that users of the health services who have the ability to pay, should pay more for what they use as it relates to private-public medical care, including surgical interventions, at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

He declared that these services are “too heavily subsidized by the State at the expense of the poorer sections of our community.”

“The minimal cost recovery by the MCMH from “private patients” needs to be examined critically. The beneficiaries of these subsidies, including the better-off patients and some of their doctors, are likely to resist sensible reforms in this area, but equity demands reformation. We must maintain the sensible, practical system of private-public medical care, but it ought to be reformed. Further, there are too many inefficiencies and waste in the health system which cry out for efficacious attention particularly at a time when we ought to be doing more with less, and to be more cost conscious,” Gonsalves said. (BK)