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Dutch Senate and minister disagree on health care cuts in BES-islands

THURSDAY, 24 JANUARY 2013

THE HAGUE–The First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament and Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers were unable to reach consensus during Tuesday’s meeting.

The Senate’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations had invited the Minister to a meeting to inform the Committee of her December 21, 2012 decision to cut down the health care insurance package in the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The Senate which feels responsible for the wellbeing of the people on the islands is unhappy with the Minister’s decision to remove physical therapy and dental care from the package. The measure will not go into effect per January 1, 2013 as initially announced, but per July 1, 2013.

“The Minister has a different responsibility than the Senate. We are the people’s representatives and as such we defend their interests,” said Chairlady of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Marijke Linthorst of the Labour Party PvdA in an invited comment on Wednesday.

The Senate was especially curious to hear the exact reasons for the increase in cost of health care, which according to the Minister is the main motivation for trimming the health care insurance package. The exchange rate of the US Dollar and euro is said to play a role in this as do the cost of medical referrals abroad and the higher number of insured people.
The Committee urged the Minister to consult with the island governments to look at the format and possible alternatives for the cost reducing measures. As far as the Committee knows there has been no or little consultation with the local governments on this matter.

Several Committee members expressed the concern that basic facilities like physical therapy and dental care would disappear, especially in St. Eustatius and Saba. It was also pointed out that the health care cost per head of the population in the Caribbean Netherlands is much lower than in the European part of The Netherlands.

The Committee further noted that the measures pose an additional burden on the islands due to the lower standard of living. Members noted that the lacking of a health care provider, island residents have no possibility to take additional insurance whereas people in The Netherlands do have this option.

Minister Schippers defended the measures by explaining that the health care costs have increased in the Caribbean Netherlands from 60 million euros to almost 100 million euros. She noted that measures to reduce costs were unavoidable because the health care insurance package was also trimmed in The Netherlands.
Chairlady Linthorst qualified the 1.5 hour meeting with Schippers as “intensive.” The Committee decided that its members will consult with their respective parties how to proceed on this matter and that a decision will be taken when the Committee meets again next Tuesday.

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