Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday the government is committed to launching National Health Insurance (NHI) this year.
“We are laying the basis for [the introduction] of primary care, which is the basis for National Health Insurance, and I expect that to happen this year,” Christie told The Guardian.
“Again, but based on all of the advice that we received, I think we are at a stage where we will soon be coming to the public to indicate to the public exactly where we are on this. And most certainly I propose to do so before I make my budget communication on the 25th of May.”
The government had planned to roll out the primary healthcare component of NHI this month, but announced a delay last month following recommendations from new consultant KPMG.
Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez could not say exactly how long the delay would be, but anticipated that primary care services under NHI would probably roll out in around six months.
Christie said the timeline will depend on the advice the government receives.
“We have hired KPMG who are global leaders in this matter,” he said.
“They have come in with specific advice to us with respect to the way in which we ought to approach National Health Insurance.
“We have been reinforced in our view that it is necessary. They have given us advice with respect to the public insurer being a vital part and a vital component and inviting us to go to a global bid for public insurer and whether that public insurer works in tandem with the local industry or however that is going to be done.
“We are taking all of the necessary steps and decisions towards implementing in a timely fashion National Health Insurance.”
Christie said the introduction of NHI is the “right decision to be made”.
He said the government is still working on the budget for the massive scheme and will carry out upgrades to the country’s healthcare facilities.
“So that there be no misunderstanding, I have always taken the view that I want to be certain when it comes to cost, that I want to be certain and not have any kind of speculative approach or an uncertain approach to any of the policy issues,” Christie said.
“So as we commit ourselves to major renovations of the Princess Margaret Hospital, as we commit ourselves to building a new hospital in Freeport and continuing with the work that our predecessors did in the Critical Care Block and continuing with introducing new elements for PMH; as these things happen, we are laying the basis for [NHI].”
The government has not determined when the National Health Insurance Bill will be tabled in the House of Assembly.
The government made the NHI Bill public in February as a part of its consultation process.
Regulations have not been made public to flesh out the details of the scheme.