Chief Executive Office of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Dr Dexter James yesterday called for “urgent and decisive” action to close a financing gap in the country’s health care system.
Dr James said at the opening of the hospital’s third annual Health Financing Summit at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, that Government’s contribution of 55 per cent of the total health expenditure was far too high.
And he recommended that any national health insurance (NHI) plan implemented here must lead to a reduction in the level of Government’s contribution.
“As we understand it, any new financing reform package must satisfy three main considerations. Firstly, there must be preservation and improvement of the health status and quality of life for the population; secondly, any freelancing model must ensure that everyone has access to quality health care that they need, not what they want, without enjoying additional financial hardships to pay for the services.
“Finally and most importantly, the financing model must lead to a reduction in the dependence of central Government funding in addressing the health care needs of the country,” Dr James argued.
The hospital CEO revealed that a study of the national health account in 2012-2013 found that total health expenditure in Barbados was $732 million, of which $405 million or 55 per cent was expended by Government; $286 million (39 per cent) came for individuals, while employers were responsible for $37 million, or five per cent.
He said a panel of experts with experience in devising and implementing various aspects of national health insurance solutions had been assembled for the summit and he hoped they would recommend the model that was best suited for Barbados.
“We have noted that of the modalities of health care financing, a national health insurance model appears to have the most popular support in the field of health financing reform. In fact, this modality of financing appears to have been adopted by many of our CARICOM [Caribbean Community] countries and beyond,” Dr James noted.
“This phenomenon is fuelled by the collision between the forces of demand and the forces of supply. It is clear that if the health system is to preserve and sustain these health care gains, urgent and decisive attention and action must be directed at addressing the financing gap,” he added.
Among the topics being discussed are designs of the benefit plans for the NHI; approaches to cost containment; the content of the legislative development; requirements for enabling information technology infrastructure to support such a plan and the changing role of the office of the Chief Medical Officer in a NHI environment.