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Answers are sought on the economic impact of planned healthcare reforms

Plans for sweeping reforms to Bermuda’s healthcare system fail to consider its economic impact, according to the Bermuda Employers’ Council.

BEC executive director Martin Law said he is still waiting for a response to his concerns from the Ministry of Health.

“The problem with the national health plan is it goes philosophical without giving due attention to costs,” Mr Law said.

“There are costs not just to employers but costs for the overall economy that we could not take right now.”

Unveiled in February, the initiative promises to tackle the rising costs of health in Bermuda, and give universal coverage by 2013.

Mr Law said a “strong, detailed letter” of employers’ concerns was sent to the Minister in April. He added: “We are still waiting to hear back from the Ministry and the Bermuda Health Council.

“There are significant financial challenges and conditions with this national health plan that have not been considered.”

He said the plan stood to have a detrimental impact on international business, and said employers needed to be involved in developing reforms.

Although the Ministry has been receiving suggestions from the public throughout the summer, Mr Law said: “I wouldn’t say they have taken every suggestion on board, because we haven’t had any response to our concerns.”

The BEC’s quarterly newsletter to members listed a main concern as “the uncosted and unworked nature of the proposed changes that consider philosophical changes before assessing economic impact”.

Mr Laws described the National Health Plan as “very theoretical”.

His remarks followed comments by Health Minister Zane DeSilva that health insurers Colonial Group International needed to work more closely with Government.

Mr DeSilva said he was “a little disappointed” with the company’s response to the plan.

“We’re still in dialogue,” the Minister said. “I hope they take a page out of other insurance companies’ books. I don’t feel the love with Colonial at the moment. They need to work with us, to help with the national health plan.”

Colonial Group president Alan Peacock said he was “surprised and disappointed”.

“I have known Minister DeSilva for many years and I am surprised by this response because we have made a major effort at Colonial to meet with the Minister and his team, and provide information and input whenever it has been requested,” Mr Peacock said.

“Do we agree wholly with the direction that his plan might go? No, but isn’t the point of a consultation process to gather information and ideas from all parties even if they do not always agree?”

Mr Peacock pointed out that Colonial provides cover in five jurisdictions, including Bermuda.

“We have always been a willing participant and it is disappointing that it is only in Bermuda, our home base, that our level of support has been questioned,” he said.

Asked if the company agreed with the proposed reforms, Mr Peacock said: ”We would reply that, as the Minister states, we are still in dialogue. The Plan is a long way from completion or, at least it should be, because we believe there are still many unanswered questions and issues that need further consideration.”

He added: “All of the parties need to be brought together the general public, insurers, employers, doctors, pharmacists, and [King Edward VII Memorial Hospital] if this initiative is to succeed. We also believe a good economic case must be made alongside the general principles of equity and sustainability.”

Mr Peacock said details of Colonial’s issues with the plan lay within the company’s own submission to the Ministry.

“We are waiting, with interest, for a reply from the Ministry, and in the meantime, we pledge that we will make our best effort to support all of the participants in this process and provide honest and straightforward advice.”

Useful website: www.bhec.bm.

Martin Law

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Published August 11, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 11, 2011 at 9:42 am)

Answers are sought on the economic impact of planned healthcare reforms

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