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Healthcare providers stalled by reform review

Applications for new services under Bermuda's basic healthcare package have been put on hold while talks to change the scheme take place.

Healthcare providers were advised of a moratorium on requests in a memo from the Bermuda Health Council last week as the Government considers ways to reform how the island pays for its treatment.

It was hoped discussions among stakeholders would lead to more equal access to care for everyone.

The memo said: “The Bermuda Health Council and Ministry of Health are currently reviewing the Standard Health Benefit programme as part of initiatives for system and financing reform.

“The goal being for all residents to have equitable access to essential care.

“To ensure that any updates to the SHB programme align to outcomes to be determined through the reform strategy, a moratorium will be placed on all provider-submitted SHB applications for new services until further notice.”

Ricky Brathwaite, acting chief executive of the BHeC and its director of health economics, said last night the missive was issued last Wednesday to let providers know the council was working with other stakeholders on a review of the SHB package.

He said: “This redesign is part of initiatives under health system and financing reform.”

Dr Brathwaite explained: “Once we complete discussions on the redesigned SHB package for 2020 and how much it should cost, we will lift the moratorium to accept applications for those newly defined service areas.

“New health services can still continue to be added through coverage from our local insurers, despite the moratorium on SHB.

“The majority of non-hospital providers receive their reimbursement in this non-SHB way.”

Standard health benefits are the services that must be included in every health insurance policy.

They include some hospital and outpatient care, home medical services and diagnostic imaging services.

Dr Brathwaite said examples of services that had been added over time included end-of-life palliative care as well as education and training for chronic disease management.

The Government is looking at ways to rein in the unsustainable cost of healthcare and a recent briefing note, issued alongside the BHeC, explained that the Ministry of Health planned to move towards a “single-payment mechanism” for the Bermuda Hospitals Board, as opposed to the current “activities-based approach”.

It is hoped the move will “put our healthcare system on a more sustainable path and strengthen it for the future”.

The note explained that the new style of payment better supported the BHB's objectives, which were to improve efficiency and achieve the best outcomes and access to care.

The approach could result in health system cost savings of about $20 million over the next year, which would be used to minimise SHB premium increases and invest in programmes for prevention and primary care.

MPs are expected to debate the 2019-20 health budget today.

The House of Assembly is also understood to be covering Bills that amended taxes on land, financial services and the purchase of foreign currency.

Long-term strategy: Ricky Brathwaite

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Published March 11, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated March 11, 2019 at 8:04 am)

Healthcare providers stalled by reform review

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