The government will not introduce the sliding tax to fund the National Health Insurance (NHI) during this fiscal year, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands told The Nassau Guardian.
“These were proposals that [were] being made and ultimately the decision would lie and was laid with Cabinet,” Sands said.
“We have decided, as the deputy prime minister would’ve made very clear, there are no new taxes in this budget. It is certainly not happening in this budget year.”
He added, “Well, NHI continues to be provided. We continue to grow the primary care services and we will determine the appropriate time for expansion of catastrophic component as promised.”
The minister said nearly 55,000 people are presently benefitting from NHI in The Bahamas.
“We have not backed away from that commitment,” Sands said.
“We have been attempting to manage many different things simultaneously so I believe we will get this accomplished. If we don’t get this accomplished this year, then perhaps next year.”
He said there will be a “significant effort to improve infrastructure across the public health system in order to prepare for the roll out of National Health Insurance”.
The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has pegged the cost of NHI at $130 million per year.
In October, it was announced that employees would pay two percent of their salaries to a maximum of $42 per month with the employer paying the remainder of the premium.
The NHIA estimates that the annual premium per employee would be $1,000 or $84 per month.
Employees earning more than $66,667 will pay the entire premium.
Following public concerns about the introduction of a possible new tax, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government was not committed to it.
“That is not a definitive report or the government’s decision to say we are increasing taxes on the Bahamian taxpayers,” Minnis said.
The NHIA presented its recommendations to Cabinet on February 19.
More than 160,000 individuals are expected to receive coverage from NHI when the program is launched July 2020.