National Address by Minister of Health, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton Regarding the Green Paper Stage For St. Kitts and Nevis’ Universal Health Insurance Coverage Plan

Fellow Citizens

There is no good health without sustained attention to Health Protection, Disease Prevention, and Health Promotion. Central to achieving such good health, is the need for our attention to its determinants including the conditions in which people are born, the conditions in which they live, and learn, and work, and play, and even worship. Even more specifically, what we consume as food, and enjoy as pastime such as drugs.

Despite our knowledge of these relevant truths, we march along each day like the proverbial blind, ignoring and violating these all-important determinants, punishing our bodies; escalating the level of non-communicable diseases; inflicting harm even on our innocent children through their diet and lack of exercise; causing them to be more obese and even diabetic than any period in history.

So, while any responsible society must focus on the curative aspects of health – which is in large measure what this mission is responding to – I have to underscore the point that largely, financial and economic gains are derived from the preventative side of the healthcare equation.

Fellow citizens, today marks the second public step of a journey; a journey towards the formal implementation of Universal Health Insurance commonly referred to as National Health Insurance.

You may recall that on February 23rd, 2018, we signed a contract with the University of the West Indies Health Economics Unit to provide specifications for the implementation of Universal Health Coverage for this Nation and we also launched the Commission to undertake the local tasks.

Today therefore, I announce that the Commission presented the Green Paper to Cabinet on Monday, October 21st, and Cabinet approved the commencement of the public consultations, which are expected to be completed over a period of two months.

Upon completion of the public consultations, Cabinet will review the outcomes presented in the white paper that will form the basis of the third public phase, which is expected to be the launching of the Universal Health Insurance in our State.

At page 18 of the Team Unity Manifesto, which is our contract with the people of this Federation, we recorded our commitment in the following terms.

Quote:- It is our belief that the wealth of a nation is the health of a nation. A TEAM UNITY GOVERNMENT will: Within its first term in office, commission a comprehensive national health insurance plan for all citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis. (And I pause also to add including those children who are attending school). In commissioning the plan, partners such as Social Security, employers, and trade unions will participate in working out the best possible benefits of the plan, as well as the level of payroll contributions and that children will also enrol from their school registration.

Fellow citizens, no amount of bake sales and raffles can raise sufficient sums to cover the costs of cancer care, which can result in millions of dollars of expenditure; and when you are forced to walk the streets with sponsor sheets in hand seeking contributions, far too often you are left wanting.

Well, although what we are doing today leads to the elimination of sponsor sheets seeking contributions to finance medical care, I can’t move forward without directing the attention of all of us to 1 John 3:17, where it say “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

It is that charge which is outlined in the scriptures to which I call everyone in this Nation

Haemodialysis in the Federation costs $125,000 per year. How many of us can afford to pay that sum every year out-of-pocket? What if the private insurance decides that you are a bad risk and drops your coverage? Then what?

Lack of health insurance is a real life nightmare scenario, being faced by real people. Naturally, when this reality hits, people turn to the government. But which government’s treasury can be the ATM machine for all people?

It always tugs at my heart when I think of poor Livingston Griffin from Keys village. At age 34, he had a successful operation on his intestines. He was walking around with a sponsor sheet in hand because he was told that he would have to go to Trinidad for twenty one cycles of chemotherapy. This poor young fisherman, who could not fish because he was sick, could not access funds to get the treatment in Trinidad, and I saw that young man die a very painful death at age 34.

And 31-year-old year old Akeela Dore, was a young person working in the public service, but being an auxiliary worker she was not enrolled for some reason on the government’s medical scheme. Struck with cancer, she tried to access the radiation treatment in Antigua but without the resources she was denied and was heading to the plane to return home when I was forced to intervene and commit US$9,000.00 to her treatment. Without the cash to continue treatment I saw this beautiful young lady die a very painful death.

In Trinidad today, as we speak, is 29 year old Jhavin Browne struggling to find EC$99,000.00 which without it will cause an inevitable fate.

This second public step therefore is an important, urgent step.

With this significant step, we are giving you – the people – the power to customize and control your healthcare experience.

With this significant step, your caring Team Unity Government is including you – the people – in this decision-making process that will alter and empower your lives.

And with this significant step, we – the people – will work together to bring our nation one step closer to closing the gap on health disparities, particularly by helping the poor in our Federation access care on a timely basis.

Indeed, today, we are much closer to attaining a landmark achievement for our nation as we strive to further advance St. Kitts and Nevis’ stellar leadership in healthcare delivery.

I therefore, heartily encourage you, all of you, to participate in the consultations that will be held nationwide. The National Health Insurance Commission looks forward to explaining and discussing with you pertinent matters relating to financing options, collection of data, as well as actuarial considerations in putting together proposed benefit packages for the State.

Your individual input during the consultation on the Green Paper will chart the way for the White Paper, which will set out the final policy details of the Universal Health Insurance Coverage Plan.

It is expected that the White Paper will be available to everyone by the end of 2018, as much of the groundwork has already been done by the National Health Insurance Commission and also through the intricate involvement of the experts at the Centre for Health Economics at the University of the West Indies. They have been assisting us in finalizing what we want to achieve as our goal.

Today, it is therefore my honour and privilege to encourage all of you to participate. I encourage your full participation in the consultation process so that we can implement Universal Health Insurance in St. Kitts and Nevis early in the coming year.

May God bless you, your homes, your families and this great Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Thank you.

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