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NHIA rejects BIA’s VAT removal recommendation

The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) yesterday rejected the Bahamas Insurance Association’s (BIA) recommendation to remove a three percent premium tax and value-added tax (VAT) from private health insurance in its response to the BIA’s position paper that was released in October.

Last year the BIA urged the government to remove VAT on private healthcare services and the three percent tax on most insurance premiums, if it wants “to align its fiscal policy with the universal health coverage agenda”.

“Yes, pending approval, it would attract the 13 percent premium tax and VAT, as is the case with all health insurance premiums currently,” the NHIA said in its response to the BIA yesterday.

“However, under the proposed policy, all VAT paid on health insurance premiums will be directed to NHI and not to the government’s consolidated fund, and as such forms part of the financing of delivering NHI SHB (standard health benefits) services across the country. This in turn represents a significant investment directly into the overall Bahamian healthcare sector.”

However, the NHIA considered the recommendation of the BIA and other stakeholders to adjust the proposed timeline for the rollout of the SHB program, which is now set for July 1, 2020.

“This represents a six-month difference from the original date and 17 months from now,” the NHIA notes in its response.

“While we appreciate that the BIA and some others may feel this is still too much too soon, we feel this is feasible, provided all stakeholders come together in a collaborative way and commit to meeting relevant deadlines. We need to stand our ground and note the urgency of the situation we find ourselves in.”

The BIA has also called for the release of draft legislation that would create the framework for the NHIA to act as a public payer, and questioned whether the authority would be “a de facto public insurer” under the health scheme.

“With our current proposal, NHIA will not be acting as a public insurer, purely as a payer for those persons not covered by the employer mandate. NHIA will not be receiving premiums from the public in any form,” the NHIA said in its response to the BIA yesterday.

“Its funding will come from government, VAT on health insurance premiums, exempt employer contribution, et cetera.

“With respect to legislation, upon approval and completion, we will make available the new draft legislation reflecting any changes that have been undertaken during this consultation process. We will then have a further consultation and feedback process on the legislation, as you have suggested.”

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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