SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) has been hosting stakeholder information sessions over the past month on the topic of universal health coverage. With the assistance of international experts of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), sessions will continue this week with labor unions, the SHTA (St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association) board and members, the Council of Ministers and members of Parliament.
The objective of the sessions is to inform and engage all participants on the topic of universal health coverage and to discuss the implementation of these concepts on Sint Maarten. “The primary question: do we as a community and politicians believe that every member of our community is entitled to health insurance or not? And if not, which groups are not entitled to it?” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA
Minister Lee commented that the sessions aim to inform and engage the stakeholders and political leaders in the thought process of how the current draft legislation for General Health Insurance for Sint Maarten is designed. With there being several models and systems of universal health coverage being adopted throughout the world, it is important for stakeholders and Government to understand how and why the current draft legislation is designed the way it is.
During the council of Minister’s press briefing of Wednesday April 3rd, Minister Lee gave three examples of universal health coverage around the world:
British system or Beveridge system: This is a more socialized, medicine model. Government owns the health care institutions and do not tax the workers on their salaries. Government pays for health care, the same way they fund infrastructure projects through their general coffers.
Bismarck system: This is a non-profit sickness fund. This is similar to what we have now on Sint Maarten for some of the residents, where a combination of employers and employees premiums pay into funding the health care system.
Single payer system: This can be referred to as a national health insurance model where It uses private-sector providers, but payment comes from a government-run insurance program that every citizen pays into.
Market driven system: This is a more American model. You pay for your health care independently, out of pocket, if you can afford to. If you cannot afford to, you are out of luck.Minister Lee concluded with the statement: As a community, we get to discuss what we want and set the departure points for changing our health care system together. With this understanding, it will be easier for us to have the discussions on the specifics of the draft legislation as it is working its way to Parliament.
The stakeholder information sessions will be hosted at the Government Administration building and facilitated by PAHO representatives: Dr. Erica Wheeler, PAHO/WHO representative for Trinidad & Tobago, Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Dr. Stanley Lalta, Health Economist of the University of the West Indies and Dr. Anton Cumberbatch, of the University of the West Indies, former Chief Medical Officer of Trinidad & Tobago.