While many persons are calling for a National Health Insurance programme to be put in place in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), such a programme may not
be feasible given the small size of the population, Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said.
Over the years there have been calls for such a programme to be developed and channelled through the National Insurance Services (NIS).
However, the prime minister said this may not be feasible given that there are just over 42,000 people registered with the NIS.
Speaking last Sunday, December 11 on the Issue at Hand programme on WEFM, Gonsalves said if a National Health Insurance programme is done as a contributory one through the NIS, this will only yield $7.5 million, if it is done at 1%.
If it is done at 2%, the yield will only be $15 million, with workers paying 1% and the other 1% being paid by the employers.
Gonsalves reminded listeners that hospital services alone cost about $41 million and the annual recurrent health bill in the Budget is about $90 million.
He said it is better at the moment to strengthen the NIS and to have pension reform; “look for some other ways to address the health issues.”
“The base… which we have here, of persons in the country, the size of the population, the size of the working population, it is very difficult…for a small population by itself to finance a sound National Health Insurance Programme.”
He said this is the reason why he has been pushing for such a programme within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
And even within this larger grouping, a National Health Insurance programme will still be a challenge.
The prime minister suggested that for such a programme to work, it may have to be incorporated with a private sector entity, and also include Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Director of the NIS, Stewart Haynes, who was a guest on Sunday’s discussion programme, agreed with the prime minister.
He said “a wider base”, will be more feasible.