The Keith Mitchell-led government is hoping that health care will become more accessible and affordable to Grenadians through the National Health Insurance (NHI), which is soon to be launched on the island.
According to Minister of Implementation with responsibility for Health Insurance, Emmalin Pierre, the insurance plan is intended to provide an opportunity for all persons in Grenada to have free and easy access to whatever health care they might need.
The female Government Minister gave details of the scheme at last Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens.
Minister Pierre said the ruling New National Party (NNP) government is making sure that every child, man, and woman in Grenada has access to a basket of health services that they do not have to pay for at the point of service.
“When we go to the doctor currently, except we are accessing a medical doctor from a medical centre or from the hospital, we have to be certain that we have the fee for the doctor in our pockets before we leave home, and we are saying whether you go to a private doctor, whether you go to a health clinic, whether you go to the hospital, if you are in need of a health service that forms part of that basket of services, we speak about, you should not have to be concerned”, she told reporters.
She sought to assure Grenadians that the issue of whether or not to access a health service will no longer be a problem for persons on the island.
She explained that persons must register for health insurance and after doing that will receive a health insurance card, which can be used to get access from health service providers in Grenada.
Minister Pierre announced that there will be no restriction as it relates to a person’s medical condition.
It will not, she said be limited to sex or age as it is done with many health insurance companies who cut off benefits to persons at the age of 70.
The female government minister disclosed that NHI will be under the auspices of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and that some legislative changes are needed to facilitate it.
“We are concerned that you do not want to do anything to interfere with Social Security funds, so, there is going to be some legislative changes to cater for two separate funds – one for Social Security and one for National Health Insurance,” she said.
Persons will be expected to contribute to the successful running of NHI, but Minister Pierre said the method of payment has not been decided upon yet.
“We do not want to say Method A, or Method B, or Method C – we intend to let the consultative process inform that but very interestingly I don’t think we have done any consultation thus far where the sentiment expressed that it should be payroll based”, she added.
“People seem to be saying very clear, please nothing that goes into my salary. We are listening to the people…when you go to the people on that currently to buy food you pay a contribution in the form of VAT. I am not saying it has to be that but what I am sensing is that people are saying let it be something similar in that I don’t want to see deduction NHI on my pay slip,” she said.
Medical Director in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Francis Martin expounded on the need for preventative health care and the benefit package under the NHI.
“Being able to do the preventative health care has an issue so under the NHI, the matter of primary health care visits, visits to the doctor in the primary health care setting will be something that’s easily accessible and it will be preventative in the sense that doctors will now be able to do their annual investigations for patients without patients having (to) worry where they getting the money to pay for these things.
“Screening will become easier, diseases will be caught very, very early because patients will now be able to access the investigative services that they need and so that in itself is preventative.
Secondly, as it is now, if you visit a doctor in the communities and you need to see a specialist, you again will have to wait and get that money to see the specialist.
Dr Martin explained that under the proposed health insurance scheme persons will be able to access specialist care without having to dip into their pockets.
“For diabetics and other persons who have complications out there, veins or vascular system as you may call it, they will be able to see their Vascular Surgeon or their Dermatologist very earlier so that they can prevent these things from happening.
“As it is now, if you go to the General Hospital and your diagnosis requires you to have a very highly sophisticated scan…even if you are in the hospital, you still have to find the money to pay for that scan. Under NHI, once there is a bilateral agreement between us and that service provider you will be able to access your care.
An official date for the launch of NHI has not yet been announced but it is expected by the end of April.
NHI is expected to be used as a major campaign platform by Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) administration in the upcoming general elections expected by some analysts to take place as early as June.