The much talked about National Health Insurance scheme for the country could likely come on stream next year.
Chairman of the committee, trade unionist Chester Humphrey said the National Advisory Health Insurance Committee believes that within the first quarter of next year it is feasibility and possible to introduce the health insurance in Grenada.
Humphrey updated the media last week Wednesday on what the broad-based National Advisory Committee is doing in putting together a proposal that would ultimately lead to the National Health Insurance.
If implemented, he said the initiative can lift the quality of health care and health services for the entire population.
Humphrey believes that there is a crisis of health sector financing throughout the region and that in Grenada itself, the crisis is experienced daily through the shortages of basic medical supplies at the main hospital in St. George’s.
However, he could not provide the media with the likely contributions to be made by persons towards health insurance but added that the time has come for the State to modernise its services through a National Health Insurance.
Humphrey is mindful of the fact that the country has a depressed economy at the time with an unemployment rate nearing forty percent.
The committee sees public consultation as being a key driver in making the National Health Insurance becoming a success story.
According to Humphrey, his members are conscious that the project would spark a lot of debate, and sufficient time has to be given to the population.
“Once people are asked to pay for something it could be quite miserable,” he said.
Humphrey stressed that the Committee members believe that National Health Insurance can play the same role as the National Insurance Scheme.
The President-General of the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union spoke of the proposed National Health insurance having the blessings of his union and the wider trade union movement.
Health Minister Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen who also addressed the media is hopeful that the Health Insurance could be addressed in the 2014 National Budget expected to be presented in December.
Dr. Modeste-Curwen indicated that health care financing is costly and if the government has to provide quality health care it must be accessible, equitable, and it must be sustainable.
The senior government minister believes now is the perfect time to establish the National Health insurance as many people are now becoming ill from various medical diseases.
“We know we have to step up on the quality and the efficiency of what we do. We have to provide services for our people, but as a government working through the Consolidated Fund, we just cannot do it,” she said.
The Committee mainly comprises members of the health sector and the insurance industry.
Some members of the committee joined their Chairman in expounding on the benefits that can come from a National Health Insurance.
Deputy Chairman of the National Advisory Committee, Kennedy Roberts indicated that their work falls in line with a recommendation coming from the World Health Organisation (WHO) through a resolution that was passed in 2005 recommending to countries that they move towards universal health coverage.
Roberts spoke of the WHO indicating that paying for health care from one’s pocket is unfair since the poorer class are the ones who have to dip into their pockets, and that the proportions of their earnings is substantially higher than the proportion of the people who earn a lot.
He said locally, the country is spending approximately six percent of its Gross Domestic Product on the health system.
Former President of the Grenada Medical Association (GMA), Dr. Debroah Ann Stephens-John examined the cost of health care in Grenada.
Dr. Stephens-John who is a medical practitioner in private practice announced that through the GMA medical practitioners operate through a fee schedule.
“We have a fee schedule which range what a general medical practitioner could charge verses what a specialist could charge… A regular attendance with a GP (General Practitioner) will range from $70.00 to $125.00,” she said.
The Medical doctor spoke of the cost of health care in Grenada being lower than in most places in the region.
Dr. Stephens-John said doctors would not refuse to attend to someone if he cannot pay for the service.
However, she indicated that a National Health Insurance will ensure that the doctor receives payment.
The medical practitioner said that in some cases certain conditions are laid down for persons having private health insurance especially where premiums are set on an individual basis
She disclosed that if someone has an existing medical condition or disability that may affect the premium, the person may not obtain the insurance coverage.
In its deliberation, the National Advisory Committee will look at the package of benefits and things that would be covered through the National Health Insurance.