Government has tabled legislation that consolidates several changes in health insurance coverage and fees, that will also see a reduction in monthly premium rates for  HIP and FutureCare.

Minister of Health and Seniors Jeanne Atherden told MPs on Friday there will be “a reduction of $4.07 per month to apply across the board to these plans”.

“We hope this will assist some persons to maintain coverage and will encourage the public to see the effects of the broad measures we have been taking to reduce healthcare costs,” she said.

In addition to reducing premiums, the Minister said: “The Bill brings a number of amendments related to health insurance, standard health coverage and fees, which have presented as necessary over the past year. Rather than pursuing piecemeal amendments, they have been consolidated into a single Bill.”

The new Bill amends 14 statutes to implement several changes including adjusting benefits and moves dialysis and kidney transplants, removes the 10-month maternity cover exclusion, limits subsidy payments to the amount appropriated by the Legislature, reduces termination for non-payment of HIP and FutureCare from three months to 60 days, and revokes open enrolment periods for HIP.

The Minister noted that the Bill represents “the first time” that she’s aware of the Government “reducing the standard premier rate and the HIP and FutureCare premiums”. But she said: “We’re the first to recognize that at $11,102 per capita health expenditure, we are still spending too much and some way to go to achieve sustainability.

“Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to be able to see the 1% reduction in total spending reflected in a similar reduction in the premiums for the standard health benefit and the Government’s low-cost plans. We hope to see this reflected in private plans also.”

Overall, she said: “The outcome of the changes results in the SPR (standard premium rate) decreasing by $4.07, down to $334.00 per month.”

She noted that the SPR “is the price of the basic package of insurance that all insurance policies must include, by law, and which all employers must provide to their employees and non-working spouses. The Government subsidizes this basic coverage for children, indigent and seniors,” said the Minister.

Other changes facilitated by this Bill includes reductions in hospital outpatient service fees for diagnostic imaging, new benefits “to help reduce healthcare costs and premiums: palliative care in the home setting, and coverage for select oral chemotherapies which are more cost effective”.

“There will also be an increase to the artificial limbs and appliances benefit from $30,000 to $100,000. Although this sounds like a lot, it adds only $0.67 to the premium,” said Ms Atherden.

“The fees for dialysis will be reduced and the new fees move towards a more transparent, standardized value-based pricing methodology.” And “the kidney transplant benefit limit will increase from $30,000 up to $100,000”.