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TUC presses govt on NHI details

With registration for National Health Insurance (NHI) set to start on January 18, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday expressed concern that the government has yet to provide the umbrella union with key information about the plan and how it will impact its members.

TUC President Obie Ferguson said while the union has heard details of the plan in recent months, the government has not put anything to the union in black and white.

“The lack of information in terms of specifics, cost, how it would be allocated, when it would take effect, who would be affected and how much each person would be required to pay, those things have not been made available to the congress or to its affiliates,” Ferguson told The Nassau Guardian.

“It makes it very difficult to make a holistic statement on the entire program because we don’t even know the cost.

“Cost is a factor that must be taken into consideration.

“What we do agree on is the concept of the universal health care program.

“Every Bahamian ought to have access to health care.

“We cannot speak to specifics because we have not been given a proposal.

“Therefore, when it comes, my board, the TUC, will examine it.”

Sanigest Internacional has estimated NHI would cost between $362 million on the low end and $633 million on the high end, although the Bahamas Insurance Association’s estimates have ranged closer to $1 billion.

Primary care services are expected to begin in April at a cost of $25 million per fiscal quarter, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen.

It is a basic level of health care that includes programs directed at the promotion of health, early diagnosis of disease and prevention of disease.

Primary care services are a subset of the vital benefits package.

Ferguson said members have inquired about how much they will have to pay to benefit from NHI, and the TUC cannot answer.

He said the union will write the government requesting these details, so it can make some important decisions, including whether to negotiate provisions in outstanding industrial agreements to supplement the cost of NHI.

Brennen has confirmed the government is proposing a three percent payroll tax, split evenly between the employer and employee, to fund the plan.

Ferguson said while the government had previously spoken about a payroll tax, he was unaware it was moving forward with the new tax scheme.

Minister of Labour Shane Gibson has said it will take 10 to 15 years to fully implement NHI.


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