Hamilton, who is the sitting Member of Parliament for Cayon/Conaree/Keys and St. Peters, has used the pulpit of his party to outline the reasons why he feels such an initiative is important for civil servants, stating that too many poor and vulnerable employees have not been able to access the level of health care that is required, especially for serious and chronic diseases, which, in some instances, has to be pursued overseas.
He has also argued that those who struggle to meet the high costs have found themselves, afterwards, in dire financial circumstances because they had to deplete their life-savings.
Of late, the current government has also taken up the call for a more comprehensive health care program for its public sector workers, not too dissimilar to what Hamilton and PAM have proposed in the past and which is also now being embraced by the other partners in a recently forged opposition alliance.
The Government last week announced that it will soon be rolling out, what it calls, the first phase of a Universal Health Insurance Scheme. Presenting his 2014 Budget in the National Assembly last week, Minister of Finance, Dr. Denzil Douglas indicated that almost $38,000,000 will be allocated to the Ministry of Health to administer its programs for the next fiscal year.
The Health Insurance Scheme is therefore one of the major initiatives that is to be funded in the New Year, because as Dr. Douglas stated, his Government recognizes health as a basic human right and a prerequisite to national development.
He added, “We also subscribe to the philosophy that health care should be accessible to all of our citizens. It is with this in mind that in 2014 the Ministry of Health will be rolling out the first phase of a Universal Health Insurance Scheme.”
Douglas was supported by his Health Minister, Marcella Liburd, who made the promise that the Health Scheme will be all inclusive.
“As we are aware, we spend millions of dollars in this country on health costs,” Minister Liburd emphasized. “Very often persons will go to the hospital and at the end of the day the bills are unpaid … And we genuinely believe that it is time for us to introduce a health insurance system that would help to underwrite some of the cost of these things.”
However, the minister has recently come under heavy criticism from the opposition who have charged that the health facilities in the island have been neglected and that poor ordinary working class citizens have been forced to pay a mandatory EC$60 service fee before being allowed to access, even the basic emergency care at the main hospital, the Joseph N France.
Minister Liburd has since rejected the claim of the opposition, accusing them of misleading the public. She emphatically stated in a release some weeks ago that citizens were not being charged such a service fee.
The Minister of Health further stressed that individuals who are insured under the soon to be introduced scheme, will now have the means to get annual check-ups privately and have coverage for chronic long-term illnesses. She further revealed that due to the all-inclusive nature of the insurance scheme, the first set of registrants would be from the most vulnerable groups in society. Registration is scheduled to commence early in 2014.
The overall increase in the health budget for 2014 is said to be nine percent.