Minister Emil Lee: Access to quality health care is a basic human right
POND ISLAND, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten –On Wednesday, February 27th, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Emil Lee presented a brief synopsis of the one of shortcomings of the current health care system on Sint Maarten. Many people in the community, who have financial challenges and cannot afford their health care costs, by law, can come to Government for medical aid assistance. Minister Lee pointed out that in essence, this is a form of universal health insurance. However, this system is based on outdated legislation and not well organized, nor efficient, nor cost effective.
“Our goal as a Ministry is to reorganize how we finance our health care system, making sure that it’s sustainable. We operate from a basic fundamental belief that access to health care is a basic human right. Too many people have issues accessing proper health insurance. If you can’t access health insurance that means you have a problem accessing health care or it causes a big financial burden to you.” – Minister Emil Lee, VSA
Minister Lee stated that there is no dispute by Government or social and health insurance provider SZV that there are structural and fundamental issues with the current health care system. “The financial issues of the current system are from even before 10-10-10.” In the day-to-day, the shortcomings of the current health care system end up coming back to Government. A practical example of this: In a car accident where the passenger was injured; the driver’s vehicle insurance covers only up to NAF 90.000,- for medical expenses for passengers. The actual medical costs exceeded the NAF 90.000,-. Government then received a ‘call’ from the car insurance company where the Government was called to step in for the remainder of the medical costs or the passenger would be left without medical care.
In the coming months the Ministry of VSA will be hosting and facilitating community stakeholder consultations on the topic of General Health Insurance as part of the National Health Reform plans. The Ministry of VSA has requested the support of PAHO in hosting the sessions; the third party organization has a “wealth” of knowledge and experience on the implementation and implications of universal health insurance in the region.
“As a community when we discuss, do we want to have some form of a general health insurance? We need to agree on certain basic principles as we go forward in these discussions: 1. We want it to be financially sustainable – We know that our current system is not, 2. We want the contributions to be equitable – everyone should contribute their fair share, 3. Every resident should have access to health care or access to health insurance – and if not, then we decide that as a community we stand there and watch that this person gets no access to health care. Is this the type of community we want to live in?” – Minister Emil Lee, VSA
Minister Lee pointed out that when making the comparison of the implementation of universal health insurance in Aruba and Curacao, that there is criticism that the model is not financially sustainability on those islands. Representatives from the health care sector of Aruba and Curaçao have been invited to take part in the local the stakeholder consultations on General Health Insurance to give insight and share the experiences directly as part of the discussions. Persons interested in taking part in the stakeholder consultations can contact the Cabinet of the Ministry of VSA via telephone number 5202767.