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St. Maarten Seniors association rejects national health insurance

POSTED: 12/4/12

GREAT BAY- The St. Maarten Senior Citizens and Pensioners Association (SMSPA) has expressed outrage at what it calls the Ministry of Public Health and Social Development’s disrespect of stakeholders of the pension and healthcare fund.

The association was among the few social organizations that attended a seminar at the Westin Resort and Spa on November 22 organized by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Development in collaboration with the SZV. But according to foundation secretary drs. Raymond Jessurun, the presentation that was made shocked them.

“They want us to buy an increase of the premium because workers were paying a 2.1 percent and the AVBZ which when put together will become 4.1 percent. This is what they told us already three years ago. But what has happened now is that government has decided to come with a new tariff structure in St. Maarten that makes it prohibitive. So what have they done? We will now have to pay more premiums and we will get less in our basic package. They will exclude all kinds of things out of our basic package because they are of the opinion to keep it payable and affordable, that this is the way to address it,” Jessurun said when Today contacted him.

Since then the association has been on television trying to raise awareness of sweeping changes that will come if civil society does not ban together to reject the National Health Insurance plan in its current form. The association plans to reach out to the churches, unions and other social organizations to inform them of the November 22 seminar.

“This is the sign of the poverty of St. Maarten. If the reason that you can’t pay an equal level of healthcare or an equal level of social security is because St. Maarten is too poor, then we all have to standup for this government so that they can get assistance for us to get out of poverty,” he added.

SMSPA believes that it was denied the right to be an active stakeholder in the process.

“It is remarkable how they deal with us. We haven’t even gotten the proposal that they are going to send to the parliament and the SER. We are sick and tired of this word stakeholder. We heard that government had taken decisions already and these decisions based on upon what was told to us were sent now to the High Councils of State; the Social Economic Council and the Advisory Council. Based on their advice government will answer and inform parliament to take a decision on healthcare reform.

The association also said that the government has not lived up to the promises it made.

The government of St. Maarten before we became a country decided twice that we could get the Dutch package of health care in terms of what was included in the basic package in the Netherlands. That was kept throughout the years but now all of a sudden in Westin Hotel, they told us that we cannot afford to pay for that.

We have it videotaped that at the first seminar of the SMSPA, where they were given the opportunity to present the proposals for the NHI. The unions were also given it on paper that we will get this package from the Dutch plus some additional coverage for our basic health care package but now they cutting it, reducing it and they want us to pay more premiums.”

SMSPA believes that the in its current form the NHI will only benefit insurance agencies.

“What is this? Just to accommodate the health care providers on the island. If the health care quality had been improved considerably then I would have thought that this would be a reason to pay more. But we all know that the service here is substandard as the inspectorate put it.

“How can we accept to pay more for quality that is already below standard and that has not improved?

Everybody knows that when you get a salary below 1500 guilders, you can go to the government and get a doctor card. Now in the new health care system, they will have to pay the 4.1 percent too out of their income.”

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