Reform can bring down healthcare costs
The Bermuda Health Strategy Report 2014-2019 states: “Compared to other high-income countries Bermuda's health system is not providing value for money as measured by health outcomes for the level of expenditure.”
It is indisputable that Bermuda's health system is overly strained and failing Bermuda's residents. This is evident as all residents do not have access to basic health insurance coverage and healthcare contributions are not affordable.
In addition, the long-term healthcare needs of our seniors are not being met. At the core of this issue, healthcare provider fees are largely unregulated and too often lead to co-payments that out of reach for working people and seniors. Some fees seem to place profit over people.
According to Bermuda's 2018 National Health Accounts Report, Bermuda's per capita health expenditure stands at $11,336, outranking most other countries.
Many senior citizens are finding it extremely challenging to cope as a large portion of their pensions are earmarked to pay for prescription drugs, diagnostic tests and other associated healthcare costs.
This financial burden depletes their limited disposable income leaving seniors with limited resources for other basic necessities. Too many Bermudians are electing to go without health insurance coverage because it is simply unaffordable.
The problem is exacerbated by an increasing number of employers who are offering workers vendor contracts in order to avoid having to pay benefits, especially the mandatory health insurance premiums.
Bermudians are demanding relief from ever-increasing healthcare costs and drug prices, and want a system that places Bermudian healthcare needs over profit.
What is needed is a sustainable and improved healthcare system and the Bermuda Health Plan 2020 will ensure all residents have access to basic health insurance coverage and will make health coverage contributions more affordable, allowing all residents to have access to healthcare services.
Health protection coverage is crucial for every human being and to the economy as a whole. In fact, good health is a prerequisite for sustainable development, economic growth and equity.
We must press forward for a healthcare system that has equal access to needed healthcare for all people.
Equitable health coverage does not occur automatically. It requires inclusive policies addressing inequities resulting from access barriers both within and beyond the health sector. When the private sector refused to provide coverage to residents with pre-existing conditions, the Government was forced to ensure that this segment of our population received coverage through HIP.
The introduction of a unified model will mean that one system will cover everyone creating a single insurance pool to spread insurance risk, ultimately reducing cost.
The new model will also create a uniform and comprehensive benefit set for everyone that is affordable.
The government reform goals are to cut healthcare cost by reducing copays and tackling fee levels and overutilisation that drives up cost.
The Bermuda Health Plan 2020 and additional reforms can make significant contributions to the realisation of the right to health, notably by ending financial exclusion and by contributing to strengthening national health systems that provide healthcare that responds to local needs, contributing to the progressive realisation of the right to health in Bermuda.
Those who profit from the status quo will almost certainly resist the Government's plan to reform healthcare. However, the Government will remain steadfast in ensuring universal health coverage is achieved.
It is important that all stakeholders, including insurance companies who will still have a critical role to play in providing supplementary healthcare benefits, actively participate in the consultation process planed over the next three months.
I also encourage the public to review the detailed information put out by the Ministry of Health at www.gov.bm/healthplan
• Jason Hayward is the junior health minister and a government member of the Senate