Health Minister Kim Wilson successfully piloted the Bill that will change the way the hospital is funded, but there are mixed views on how it all will pan out when it comes to reducing healthcare costs in Bermuda.
The controversial Health Insurance Amendment Act Bill was passed in the House of Assembly on Friday night.
The new legislation will see the Government pay an annual grant to the Bermuda Hospitals Board, to be capped at $330 million for the year ahead – replacing the existing fee-for-service arrangement under the Act.
But the new block payment system will be funded by the Government with more than a triple increase, which takes monthly premium payments to health insurers, up from $101.97 to $331.97.
The Minister told MPs that the hospital will be held “more accountable” in return for the cash.
“We are demanding the best from our hospital and they are taking the progressive and responsible steps to achieve under those demands.
“We are looking for each of those companies to use more of the money you are paying in health insurance premiums to pay for your health,” said Ms Wilson.
“We are demanding to put the health of people as a higher priority to the health of profits.”
Her parliamentary counterpart, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Health said the new plan will “turn the healthcare system on its head as we know it”.
“I believe it deserves more than the short shrift that the Government has afforded it in trying to railroad this legislation through within one week,” she said.
Based on the feedback she spoke with, she said insurance representatives described the new scheme as “woefully inadequate”.
Ultimately, she said the new legislation will not deliver the island’s need for quality healthcare.
“We will see that there will be more expense, in terms of premiums outside of the standard health benefit, there will be no guarantees for efficiencies, and there will be no guarantees for positive health outcomes,” said Ms Gordon Pamplin.
But Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, countered the Shadow Minister and described her arguments as “weak”.
He noted that this was only the first step in the Government’s pursuit to lower healthcare costs in Bermuda.
“Is this the final stage? Nope, it’s part of the beginning of where we are headed,” said Mr Furbert.
But Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier said: “We haven’t heard that. We still have not answered the question of how are we lowering insurance costs for Bermudians.”
One Bermuda Alliance MP Michael Dunkley noted that the Sugar Tax Bill “was well-intentioned”.
But he said: “Sugar Tax No 1 was done without adequate consultation, no listening, just advising.”
“This Bill does nothing to address the fundamental cost of healthcare in Bermuda,” he said.
The Government was “quietly and conveniently putting an increased burden on the private sector”, he added.
Premier David Burt described the new legislation as a “monumental step” moving forward.
“Transformational change is what this government was elected to bring, and that is what we will bring to Bermuda,” he said.
“This is the first step to providing a healthcare system that puts the people’s interests over the interests of people’s profits.”
The new system takes effect on June 1, 2019.