In the details

In the details

It was somewhat comforting to hear Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Omar Ottley tell Parliament (see Friday/Saturday edition) the aim is to establish affordable, sustainable access to healthcare for people living in St. Maarten. He was discussing the issue of national health insurance/universal coverage.

After all, medical expenses have been on the rise partly due to an ageing population and despite premium hikes collective insurance funds are facing mounting challenges worldwide, including in the Dutch Caribbean. What’s more, Aruba’s AZV General Health Insurance racked up huge deficits for years that government ended up covering when introduced, until they were able to get a better grip on medical practices, rates and costs.

The Committees for Financial Supervision CFT and CAFT in Monday’s newspaper called for urgent and long-lasting measures to prevent a future collapse of the healthcare funds in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten. They currently spend respectively 13%, 9% and 8-8.5% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare.

Earlier, the minister had responded to concerns expressed by Soualiga Employers Association (SEA) about the direction of the country’s health system and specifically the increase in Social and Health Insurances SZV’s wage cap threshold. They questioned the readiness of the institution to take on board an expected 1,243 persons that came over from private insurance companies as a result, plus its ability to carry what they said is seemingly a National Health Insurance (NHI).

During last Wednesday’s weekly Council of Ministers live press briefing Ottley assured that SZV can handle the additional clients from doubling the wage limit. He said automation played a key role but created challenges such as seniors who are not tech-savvy, which are being addressed with assistance programmes and the Community Help Desk.

The minister also told elected representatives there was no intention to introduce mandatory insurance. How it is to work in practice thus very much remains to be seen.

As usual, the proverbial devil will no doubt be in the details.

The Daily Herald

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