Concern raised at cutback to overseas medical assistance for ‘most vulnerable’
Opposition Senate leader Jeanne Atherden yesterday questioned why funds had been cut for a group which provides overseas medical assistance for the “most vulnerable”.
Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association (LCCA) had its annual grant halved from $2 million to $1 million in the 2011-12 Budget.
Sen Atherden said during a debate on the Ministry of Health: “Why when it has been indicated throughout the briefs that the Junior [Health] Minister [Cromwell Shakir] gave that overseas treatment is one of the largest growth areas of the heath care costs and the LCCA is the major fund for overseas costs for people under FutureCare and people with limited means.
“Why are we cutting that area that is not only the fastest-growing but people are the most vulnerable?”
Senator Shakir said the LCCA was for those who are not covered by any insurance.
He said Government would work with the LCCA to help them with their budget.
“If additional funds are required we will try and find savings in other areas of the Ministry,” he added.
Sen Atherden asked for clarification on how the King Edward Memorial VII Hospital received its Government grant, whether it was on a monthly or a claims submission basis.
“The reason I would like to have that clarified is we have heard a lot of the fact that individual doctors and other health providers are asking other people to pay up front, or claims have been delayed and I want to know how far behind are they.”
Sen Shakir said the hospital was paid on a monthly basis and given one-twelfth of its budget to provide adequate services. He said this accounts for 40 percent of the hospital revenue, while the remaining 60 precent comes from insurance claims.
Sen Atherden also questioned how the original estimate had to be “revised upwards by 20 percent” from $85.6 million to $100.6 million in 2010-11 yet a budget of $84.6 million was anticipated for the coming financial year.
She said it seemed they hadn't even factored in the fact that health care fees were going to go up, and said it was important to get that answered.
Sen Atherden said the Opposition party would “hate to think” that the Budget estimates were recorded just to make the Budget fit.
And she asked whether supplements would later be required to cover the actual expenditure.
“If we have gotten to that stage of accounting we are in trouble, and we have to say that is no good,” she said.