St. Maarten Ministers focus on National Health Insurance and medical centre expansion

FRIDAY 3 AUGUST 2012, PHILIPSBURG – The status of the National Health Insurance proposal and the expansion of the St.Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) are two issues expected to come in today’s Council of Ministers weekly meeting. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams confirmed that the board of the SMMC was “pretty close towards finalizing a financial package for the expansion.”

Three weeks ago the board and management of SMMC held a meeting with government to update them on the progress of expansion.

In July 2010, the Ministry of Public Health granted SMMC a license to pursue the first phase of its expansion project.  The overall expansion is expected to lead to a reduction in the country’s health care expenditures, as services and treatment that is currently unavailable would be made available locally. The expansion in services would include among other areas, cardiology, urology and neurology.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) on the other hand should have been in place since January 1. Delays in the draft law and handling in parliament has stymied the process. A report compiled by HBN Law firm in May outlined the implications of the new system.

“It will result in all residents and income tax subjects being obliged to take out the basic NHI insurance with SZV.  A guarantee fund will be established in order to cover the medical assistance required by uninsured persons. Care providers will only be able to appeal on this fund once they are able to prove that they have done everything within their power to recover the expenses made on the uninsured person and/or his warrantor.

The main difference between the current system and the NHI is that the NHI will contain one basic insurance and that insurers are obliged to accept all those who fall under its scope. It will, therefore no longer be possible to refuse a resident if he is not employed or a non-resident if he pays income taxes over his/her income. The NHI will be paid by the insured persons (with an income-dependent premium), an employers’ contribution and an annual government contribution for specific groups of insured persons.

The new tariff for the National Health Insurance is focused on containing healthcare costs. This also applies to the health system in general. In the latter case government will place more focus on preventative care. There are also plans to conduct a new health care study and create a new health information system that will monitor things like mortality and morbidity rates.”