Consumers Coalition concerned about Medical Center tariff hike

~ Wants answers from Health Minister ~

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Consumers Coalition is concerned about the tariff increase St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) plans to introduce as of January 1, and is calling on Health Minister Emil Lee and other stakeholders to shed light on the hike.

  SMMC announced in a press release days before Christmas that its tariffs will go up as of January 1.

  The Coalition urges SMMC, Lee, Social and Health Insurances SZV and private insurance companies to provide details about the new tariff structure approved for SMMC, what “the real price increase” will be and what the impact on premiums will be for consumers.

  Consumers Coalition co-coordinators Alberto Bute and Raymond Jessurun visited SMMC on Wednesday to “look for the new tariffs,” but their efforts were without success. “The cashiers had no list and the receptionist also could not provide us with the information,” the Coalition said in a press release.

  SMMC Medical Director Dr Felix Holiday promised to send the new tariffs to the Coalition via SMMC’s Finance Manager.

  The Coalition said SMMC’s “gift” has an unknown price tag. “The only thing we can gather from the press release is that as per January 1, the insurance companies SZV and the private insurers will have to pay a higher tariff for the services SMMC will provide. What will be the price increase percentage was not mentioned?”

  The Coalition said that while the impression was created that the Ministry of Health VSA and SZV have apparently agreed to “buy” the SMMC tariff increase, SZV has denied this.

  “In a conversation this morning [Wednesday – Ed.] with the Director of SZV Glen Carty, the co-coordinators from the Sint Maarten Consumer Coalition were told that SZV was not yet informed about the new tariffs Minister Lee had approved. Mr. Carty assured that If there is an increase in SMMC tariffs, for now SZV premiums will not be raised, as SZV was in a trajectory to increase compliance which could then absorb the SMMC tariffs increase,” the Coalition said.

  Jessurun also spoke to the spokesperson of a private insurance company, who said SMMC had threatened to not accept medical cards or guarantee letters from private insurers if they do not “buy the pricey SMMC gift of a 41.8 per cent tariff increase as of the first of January. Their insurance company cannot absorb the 41.8 per cent tariff increase without raising the premiums. In other words, all workers not insured with SZV will have to pay more premium. How much more is not yet known.”

  The Consumers Coalition wants to know who is going to pay the price increase for PP-cardholders and Government employees. “The Minister of VSA nor the Minister of Finance have asked Parliament for a budget increase to pay for the SMMC gift for the PP-cardholders and Government employees. When will the taxpayers feel the tariff increase for these persons in our society? After elections or now already in January?”

  The Consumers Coalition wants answers from Lee. They asked whether Lee had issued a ministerial decree on the new tariffs, whether SMMC can legally raise tariffs without a ministerial decree from the Minister of Public Health and what effects the tariff increase of 41.8 per cent will have on premiums of consumers and the contribution of taxpayers to the health care bills at SMMC of PP-cardholders and civil servants.

  The coalition also wants to know, if the compliance trajectory of SZV is not effective, whether SZV premiums for private sector workers will increase and by how much.

  The coalition demands answers before January 1.

  The Consumers Coalition consists of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU), St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association (SMSPA) and the St. Maarten United NGO Federation (SUNFed).

Source: The Daily Herald