Broader consultation on health reforms wanted
Proposed reforms to health benefits should not be examined to a tight deadline, an insurance industry leader warned.
Peter Lozier, the executive vice-president of group insurance at Argus Group, said that “health reform of this magnitude and complexity requires comprehensive input from a breadth of stakeholders”.
He added: “As many details are yet to be determined, we encourage the adoption of a flexible, rather than fixed, consultation period to ensure all stakeholders have the opportunity to be heard.”
Mr Lozier was speaking after plans were unveiled last week for a revised package of health insurance benefits designed to cut out-of-pocket expenses for the public.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that the Bermuda Health Plan 2020 would replace the Standard Health Benefit coverage for all the island’s 65,000 residents.
But the level of coverage, as well as who will administer the scheme, remain unclear.
Ms Wilson said that consultation documents on the plan would be released “over the coming weeks” and that there would be a four-month consultation period on what the plan should include and cost.
Responsibility for administration of the plan will also be discussed.
Mr Lozier said that the company had a responsibility to help lower healthcare costs on the island.
He added: “We support solutions that better balance affordability and quality care.
“We remain an active contributor in the Health Financing Reform Stakeholder Consultation Group and welcome further consultation by the Government as they develop the Bermuda Health Plan.”
Mr Lozier said that healthy lifestyles, backed by healthcare professionals, “is the key to driving down overall health costs”.
He added: “This is why Argus continues to invest in chronic disease prevention and care management to improve the financial and physical wellness of Bermuda residents.
“We are committed to working with the Government to provide health management tools and programmes that improve the population’s health.”
Naz Farrow, the chief executive of insurance firm Colonial Group International, said last week that the company agreed with the “high-level goals” proposed in the BHP.
But she warned: “The proposed creation of a ‘new healthcare system’ will be a massive and complex undertaking requiring the highest degree of technical and financial planning, co-ordination and community co-operation.”
Ms Farrow said the company welcomed Ms Wilson’s “commitment to meaningful and effective consultation with stakeholders”.
She added: “We also appreciate the minister’s statement that the road map to achieving the 2020 plan, as she framed it, is ‘complicated’ with much to be made clear on economic, administrative and transitional questions that will have material effect on the viability of the plan itself.”
Insurance firm BF&M did not respond to a request for comment.
Ms Wilson said last week that the unified system was “best suited to achieve efficiencies, economies of scale and cost savings”.
She added: “A unified system means that all residents will be in the same basic insurance pool, sharing health costs throughout all of Bermuda’s residents.”
The government website estimated the prospective plan could cut health expenditure for a family of four from $25,536 a year to $17,068 compared to the present system.
A hypothetical model for a single adult showed the annual cost of $7,058 going down to $6,308, with suggested savings such as:
• Copay per visit to a GP, for two visits a year, cut from $80 per visit to $25
• Copay for a single yearly visit to a specialist, from $200 to $50
• $400 coverage annually for prescription medicines
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