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National health insurance – long overdue!!!


Tue, Mar 03, 2015

EDITOR: I was fortunate a few years ago to sit next to my good friend Reginald Thomas while on a LIAT flight; he was on official business, I was en route to a family reunion in St Maarten.

We reminisced about interviews I conducted with him while I worked with the GIS, now API, about the work and development of the NIS, an institution he has led admirably over the years.{{more}} One of the topics I raised during our short flight was the issue of health insurance, which he said was ‘on the cards’ since 2001, but which, in my opinion, has been on the back burner since then, as nothing concrete has been said or done about it; hence my concern at this time, as it was even before 2001.

National health insurance is an absolute must, a matter of priority… and I will explain some of the main reasons why it is necessary. Every year, about three or four times, there are public appeals by persons with serious medical issues, having to go on radio or publishing their plight in newspapers with the hope that the general public can help with their medical expenses; many times I wish I could help, but if we had National Health Insurance (NHI), these persons would never have to make appeals to the public for assistance… some either die or are still suffering due to lack of finances to cover medical expenses.

Just as a small percentage of your salary is taken out for NIS, so that when you retire from work there is a little pension to keep you going, similarly another few cents can be deducted to cover medical expenses. NHI will make local doctors more confident in investing in modern diagnostic equipment, because they know that they don’t have to worry about payment for specialized procedures, because the HNI will take care of these expenses. The doctors and NIS can work out a standard cost/rate for medical procedures, so that there is no ‘hanky panky’ from the unscrupulous.

We may be all healthy and strong now, but a simple traffic accident or slip down a staircase can change your life permanently; a debilitating disease like a stroke can affect and afflict you without warning due to your diet or lifestyle; so, while we ensure that we have a ‘lil pension’ to look forward to, there is nothing sufficient in that pension to cover major medical expenses. As we grow older, it seems that you become more prone to disease and conditions that can literally cripple your lifestyle. At the moment, many people die due to the lack of finances to cover medical expenses; so, let’s dust off the plans and put National Health Insurance on the front burner for affirmative action. Sports is not without its accidents and NHI can help absorb the costs associated with medical care and rehabilitation.

At the moment, only certain government officials or persons who are well off can afford medevac services to fly overseas for advanced medical treatment; with National Health Insurance, operators of these services will not have to worry about payment because MOU’s will be in place to ensure that the NHI is not ripped off.

NHI is LONG OVERDUE; it is more than time that we get it going. President Obama had a hell of a time getting Obamacare going, but he did not relent and National Health Insurance is now a reality in the US. Imagine we could have been ahead of the US if we instituted it since 2001. Now we have to play the ‘catchin up’ game. There is sufficient critical mass within the NIS to have one person in charge of NIS and another for NHI, both working in tandem for the common good of all Vincentians.

Let’s get on with it …. It is seriously needed now !!!

Donald De Riggs