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FNM to reject any NHI tax

Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday his party will not support taxing Bahamians to fund National Health Insurance (NHI), which the government said it will implement in January 2016.

“Already you have a 12.8 percent poverty rate,” said Minnis, who is a former minister of health.

“So when you tax them even further you are going to cause an even greater increase in poverty and possibly decrease the quality of living and healthcare in the country.

“The [government] said nothing about what they are going to do with the present infrastructure that we have at the Princess Margret Hospital and the clinics. Those are issues that have to

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

be corrected.”

Speaking during the mid-year budget debate on Monday, Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez said the government has yet to determine how much NHI will cost or how it will be funded.

But Gomez noted that the proposal that was presented under the first Christie administration called for a payroll tax.

Minnis said there are too many unanswered questions about the proposed plan.

“I don’t know their plan,” he said.

“Nobody can support their plan at this particular time because we don’t know their plan. Tell us what you’re doing so that we can make a comment.”

He also said he doubts the Christie administration will meet the January 2016 deadline to implement the first phase of NHI.

“We know they are going to delay it,” he said.

“Have they ever done anything on time?

“So we know, keeping with their track record, we know they are not going to do anything in January.”

On Monday, when asked by Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins if the government planned to implement a new tax to support NHI, Gomez said “taxes are better than death”.

“That’s the most stupid statement I’ve ever heard, that taxes are better than death,” Minnis said.

“I’m sure he probably regrets he ever made such a statement.

“The Bahamian people are under all sorts of stress. So you are going to add more taxes on them?

“And he said taxes are better than death? I’ve never heard anything so stupid in all my life.”

Rollins said he does not support the government’s plan to implement NHI in January.

Gomez said the Ministry of Health and Sanigest Internacional, Costa Rican-based consultants, executed the Sanigest Consultancy Agreement last Monday to provide technical assistance for the implementation of NHI.

He did not provide any costs associated with the contract.

The government engaged Sanigest in April 2014 to provide a final costing for the program.

Ahead of the 2012 general election, Gomez said at a rally that if elected, the PLP would implement NHI in the first year.

On Monday, Gomez said the timeline set by the January 2016 government is ambitious, but expressed confidence that it will be met.

NHI was previously estimated to cost $235 million annually.

The projection was made under the first Christie administration.

Recently, Sanigest Internacional said it is “plausible” in some scenarios for NHI to cost more than $500 million.

Months before the 2007 election, NHI legislation was passed in Parliament, but regulations to flesh out the program’s details were never introduced.

Upon coming to office, the Ingraham administration introduced a national prescription plan.

Minnis said yesterday the FNM’s health plan “would have eliminated the problems that we see in the hospital in terms of the [overcrowding]”.

 

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