Universal health coverage, possibly through national health insurance – and the way to pay for it – is about to take another step forward, according to Minister of Health and Wellness Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic.
In the coming weeks, a health care financing commission is to be established, with a mandate to deliver policy options in 18 months, he said.
The revelations came during remarks today at a public event at the Garrison Savannah ahead of Sunday’s observance of World Health Day. The event was organized by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
Bostic said this year’s World Health Day focus on universal health also presents an opportunity for Barbados to continue discussions on policy options for health care financing.
“This is urgently needed to underpin the provision of universal health coverage. Some of the major issues, which need to be examined, include a fair means of raising funds and an agreed, guaranteed package of services that people can access when needed.
“In addition, mechanisms such as pooling of funds and the management and strategic purchasing to incentivise appropriate quality and quantities of health care will also be critical to our decision making.”
The Minister also indicated that discussions were ongoing regarding non-nationals living in Barbados, having access to Barbados’ free health care sector.
A human chain link was formed at the event on the Savannah, which he said was an indication of the solidarity Barbados shared with people around the world to make sure that no one was left behind in the march towards healthier communities and a healthier world.
But while Government is committed to implementing to guaranteeing continued access to quality health care, Bostic said, creating the healthy future that has been envisioned was the business of all citizens and sectors, public, private and non-governmental.
He said such collaboration was especially critical as it applies to the response to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases, since the rate of these illnesses was unacceptably high among the population.
“At this time when we are engaged in the process of rebuilding our economy and strengthening social systems, Barbados needs a healthy, engaged population. I therefore strongly urge all Barbadians to take the necessary steps to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviours.
“Let us make a commitment to ourselves, our families and our country. Eat more fruit and vegetables, get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, drink more water, reduce the amount of salty snacks and sugar sweetened beverages you drink each day and most of all take time for family, and for rest and relaxation. This is a time for action, a time for all of us to make wellness a way of life,” the Health Minister said.
PAHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Godfrey Xuereb said universal health coverage provides all people access, without any kind of discrimination, to comprehensive quality services, wherever they need them, without facing difficulties.
Dr Xuereb said it requires the definition and implementation of policies and actions with a multisectoral approach to address the social determinants of health and promote the commitment of the whole society with health and well-being.
The PAHO representative said: “Universal health is not just about ensuring everyone is covered, but that everyone has access to care when they need it, wherever they are. It means that we need to provide HIV screening services in all our health centres/polyclinics; we need to have immunisation services available at a time when working mothers can take their children.
“It means that we need to have prostate screening and breast screening services available at the primary health services; that we have medication treatment that’s affordable and accessible to all for our non communicable diseases; it means that our children and adolescents should have good sex education and live in an enabling environment that is not contributing to obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease.”