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Bermuda to host Caribbean conference on health financing

Bermuda will host a major international summit on health financing this November as part of the Island's continuing debate over healthcare and cost.

The Sixth Caribbean Conference on Health Financing Initiatives is to coincide with what Health Minister Zane DeSilva called a follow-up to last year's local summit on healthcare financing.

“The first day will be dedicated to local issues, with our local stakeholders,” the Minister said. “When we met last November, we didn't have a whole lot of dialogue between stakeholders and attendees, so this will be a time to have more interaction.”

The announcement comes as the Health Ministry prepares to release its findings from months of public feedback on the National Health Plan.

That report is to be published “within the next month or so”, according to Bermuda Health Council CEO Jennifer Attride-Stirling.

Launched in February, the plan proposes universal access to basic healthcare for all residents.

The Caribbean Conference, which has been held since 2006, will afford a chance for Bermuda to examine a range of different national plans.

“It's a sought-after conference, and we feel lucky to be able to host it,” Mr DeSilva said.

“We expect representation from 20 Caribbean countries, with maybe 100 representatives from the Caribbean, and a total of 130 people with the local shareholders as well. They tend to be fairly technical meetings, so attendance is by invitation only, but it will be a good, diverse representation.”

He said: “We have the core issue of the Health Plan equity and sustainability to look at. It's going to help to get feedback from other countries on their own health plans, and some are looking for our advice. A lot of Caribbean countries look to Bermuda to develop their own models for their own countries.”

The conference at Tucker's Point is hosted by the Health Insurance Department and the Bermuda Health Council, and its cost is expected to be covered by sponsorship.

Bermuda's health costs continue to rise annually by about ten percent.

“Last year we were looking at $600 million,” Mr DeSilva said. “We as a country need to address this. We're all paying. The subsidies of $80 to $100 million that we fork out every year comes out of the Government coffers, from the taxpayer. A lot of Government income comes from employer tax, and those that make more are paying more.”

Dr Attride-Stirling agreed, adding: “We are paying a lot for our healthcare, and everyone wants to see cost containment measures.

“That has to be done in collaboration with all shareholders the private sector, the charitable sector and civil society.”

Task forces for Bermuda's developing plan include one specifically dedicated to long-term care issues, Mr DeSilva said.

“Our senior population is rising,” he said. “One thing we're looking at is reverse mortgages. Long-term care is a very big issue, and for young people as well. Last week, Permanent Secretary Kevin Monkman and I met with a mother who's been caring for her two kids over 20, 25 years.”

He added: “Another issue we're looking at is clinical case management. We have some individuals who really drain our healthcare system. In time, we'll be looking at these individuals, asking how we can get that person to better health.”

In tandem with the Tourism Department, November's meeting will also be used to showcase Bermuda to international representatives, with a tour of the Island planned for the closing day.

Health economists Stanley Lalta, Mark Roberts of Harvard University, and Ruben Suarez of the Pan American Health Organisation are to address the conference. Topics will include health reform ethics, reinsurance options, overseas care and projected expenditures.

Useful website: www.bhec.bm

Tucker's Point

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Published August 02, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 02, 2011 at 9:02 am)

Bermuda to host Caribbean conference on health financing

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