Insurance companies in Barbados will soon be asked to pay upfront for the treatment of persons with chronic diseases.
The revelation came this morning from chairman of the Barbados Diabetes Foundation, Dr Oscar Jordan, while speaking at a news conference to announce the launch of a healthy lifestyle campaign dubbed On The Move and organised by the Barbados Association for Retired Persons, on behalf of the Diabetes Association.
Jordan suggested that the insurance companies had a responsibility to assist with financing the care and treatment of the elderly, including the 40,000 members of BARP.
“You [BARP members] should be able to go to a doctor or come to the centre [Diabetes Centre] and ensure that what you are doing is right, and to have a test done, and that should be paid for by them [insurance companies]. And so, it is the intention of the Diabetes Foundation, to speak, not only to the ICBL, but all the insurance companies,” he informed the news conference at the Maria Holder Diabetes Centre in Warrens, St Michael.
He stated that his foundation would impress on the companies to enter into a special partnership arrangement for upfront financing of care and treatment.
“[So] that we can say to them [insurance], we guarantee that if patients have a course of treatment and education . . . patients with diabetes, we can restore them to a degree of health, where they can be insureable, but you have to pay as an insurance company for their health,” added the leading medical practitioner.
He is arguing that Government, through the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Finance and Building and Engineering, ought to provide facilities for exercise.
The treatment of chronic diseases in Barbados has become a major financial burden on the public purse, with 60 per cent and more of the budgets of the National Drug Service and Queen Elizabeth Hospital being spent on chronic
In fact Jordan stated that hypertension and diabetes by themselves, accounted for five per cent of the island’s gross domestic product.
Lamenting that the diabetic population in Barbados had increased from about 16,000 some four decades ago to 40,000 today, he also said he was worried about the current number of working people who now have the disease.
“Those who are at severe risk of diabetes – a condition that we call pre-diabetes – in other words, they have high blood sugars, but those blood sugars revert to normal when they’re fasting: 60 percent, approximately of working people have either diabetes or pre-diabetes. Does that frighten you? It ought to,” the Barbados Diabetes Foundation chairman warned.
At the same news conference, chairman of the National Non-Communicable Disease Commission, Professor Sir Trevor Hassell cautioned the country about the serious impact chronic diseases was having on the economy.
Sir Trevor said there was need for more information on the economic fallout.
“One of the major needs . . . is the need to have more information of the economic impact of these chronic diseases. It is a very important area; so important is it, that even as I speak to you, the Chronic Disease Research Centre is seeking to source a health economist to work exclusively in this area of the financial impact of chronic diseases,” the prominent medical specialist disclosed.
“Because, if you pause and think about it, it is far more complex than one thinks at first glance. We think only for example, mostly of the cost of care, but there is also the loss of productivity; there is also the impact that the disease and the illness has on the family; and so it is a multiplier effect. Sometimes, also in this area, one speaks to the significant cost of preventing these diseases. But those who are well versed in this field make the comment, that one also has to look at the issue of the cost of not taking action,” asserted Sir Trevor.
He said it was his personal view, that chronic disease ought to be inserted into the national debate that is taking place.
The commission head suggested, as well, that Government should enact legislation to encourage healthy eating.
He is recommending making healthy foods more affordable and imposing heavier taxes on unhealthy ones, especially those with heavy salt content.