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Health plan grandstanding

Dear Sir,

When this awful pandemic started to affect Bermuda, the healthcare providers represented by the Patients 1st group decided that this was not the time to be challenging the Government's proposed Bermuda Health Plan, which includes a unified insurance scheme that would force all residents into one basic insurance plan.

We decided to stand back because the pandemic is a unique challenge that requires everyone to support each other for the common good. Using the situation to advance a position on a legitimately contested public issue, such as the unified insurance scheme, would be inappropriate. Who has time for conflict when we are trying to stay alive?

Well, apparently the Government does. During an April 8 press conference with the Premier, a journalist asked what effect the Bermuda Health Plan would have on the Covid-19 crisis if it were in place. The health minister jumped in, citing the universal-coverage component of the plan to promote the plan.

But the plan is not just about universal coverage — a specific reform that Patients 1st supports. We all believe that no one should be worried about getting proper care at any time, let alone amid a crisis such as the one we are facing.

Indeed, if the plan was just about universal coverage, I would not be writing this letter. But I am because the crisis is being used to promote the entire Bermuda Health Plan.

The plan, as I said, is not just about universal coverage. Huge questions remain about its reach and its financial sustainability. We don't know, for example, what is actually going to be covered under the plan or how it will be administered. We do know the Government wants a unified insurance scheme, which would create one primary insurance provider for the community and take away choice.

It is this aspect of the plan that Patients 1st is asking the Government to reconsider. It's a big issue with profound implications for the future effectiveness of Bermuda's healthcare.

So I'm asking the health minister to please refrain from misleading statements about her plan. Please hold off until the situation is safe and the Patients 1st working group can meet with her as we had planned before Covid-19 disrupted lives and livelihoods.

When that day comes, we will be ready to work through the questions and issues raised by the Bermuda Health Plan to help build a system that works to the benefit all of Bermuda.

On a final note, it seems that the Premier threw dentists under the bus in a recent Facebook comment. For the record, dentists are open for emergencies, but most of us do not have specialised Covid-19 protective gear to protect our patients and ourselves. Every time I have seen an emergency, I do the best I can with what I have, but the situation is not ideal.

In this instance, the Premier promoted the Bermuda Health Plan when he was speaking about a patient's difficulty in getting her child seen by a dentist, at a time when dentists were having to close their daily operations.

The situation he was addressing had nothing to do with the proposed health plan. I suppose the thinking is that if the Government keeps saying enough times how wonderful life will be under the proposed plan, people will eventually fall into line.

But instead of promoting the Government's health plan during the Covid-19 crisis, why not exercise the power of government to secure proper protective equipment for all healthcare providers so we can safely get back to taking care of the needs of our patients?



The first masks: an opponent of the Government's plan to overhaul the health insurance system at a rally in February (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 14, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 14, 2020 at 8:32 am)

Health plan grandstanding

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