How shockingly basic
First, let's start with the positive.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health in the present Progressive Labour Party government, has the ability to tackle the island's very real healthcare problems.
She is demonstrably intelligent, personable and, as an accomplished barrister, she is clearly skilled at “managing her brief”.
But, as lawyers know, some “briefs” are more persuasive than others.
For those present at St James' Church Hall in Somerset on the Monday before the hurricane, the minister's healthcare “brief” was really quite shocking.
Driven by her government's commendable desire to “do something” about the increasing cost and inadequate scope of healthcare, Ms Wilson was rolled out to explain the “something” the PLP has decided to “do”.
The answer: the PLP intends to dismantle the existing healthcare system. Yes, that's right. Had you not heard yet? Under the PLP plan, your healthcare system will be dismantled and replaced.
Ms Wilson revealed that by “Fall 2020”, the PLP will eradicate the healthcare system as we know it and introduce the PLP's new “Basic Plan”.
Given the impact of this proposal upon Bermudians, a number attended from the Opposition, including Shadow Minister of Health Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, One Bermuda Alliance senator Marcus Jones, former OBA senator Lynne Woolridge and me.
Here's what we have learnt:
• Everyone must pay for the Basic Plan
• The choice of coverage will not be your decision
• The Government will decide for you — one size fits all
• Everyone must pay a fixed fee — intimated at $514 per month for adults and $178 for children
• All additional coverage will be at your cost
• The extent of the coverage in the Basic Plan is still to be determined
• The health minister said she did not know yet who will run the Basic Plan
The learned attorney clearly did not choose the name “Basic Plan”. She wisely spent the evening trying to rebrand, finally landing upon “Standard Plan”.
I don't fault her advocacy — “basic” is not the word Bermudians would choose for preferred healthcare. Describing it as basic was an early own goal by the Government, no doubt its new plan will be swiftly renamed.
Yet, Bermudians are right to explore ways to fix the problems with our healthcare system. It is clearly too expensive. Most agree there is considerable overuse. There are Bermudians who are not only underinsured, but uninsured.
Whether you consider universal coverage to be a right or an aspiration, our healthcare system has very real shortcomings. These must be addressed.
And there are solutions, including solutions identified by healthcare experts, by local health insurers, and I declare my interest, and, more recently, by the BermudaFirst Report commissioned by the Premier, David Burt.
Interestingly, these various and variable solutions do not involve dismantling Bermuda's existing healthcare system.
Instead, they seek to enhance what Bermuda has at present: a healthcare system envied by most other countries.
But from Ms Wilson we learnt the PLP has decided to dismantle our existing system. The PLP's Basic Plan is coming — like it or not.
Much will be written, and said, in the next 12 months about the Basic Plan.
Yet the information available already raises considerable concerns.
Will the cure prove worse than the disease? Is Bermuda headed for a course of bad medicine?
But it is not my views that should sway you, nor Ms Wilson's advocacy.
Far better if you ask your doctor ...
• Scott Pearman is the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22)