Government healthcare reform plans will be the subject of four-month consultation period to gauge public feedback on the way forward.

The Bermuda Health Plan will go before the public in a series of town hall meetings next month.

According to the Minister of Health, Kim Wilson, there will be “no immediate changes to your current plan”.

Ultimately, she said improved benefits include greater access to primary care with better prescription coverage.

The Bermuda Health Plan will run separately from the supplemental benefits provided through private insurers and seniors covered by FutureCare and HIP should see a reduction in copays.

A Ministry of Health statement released this week said the proposed plan will “eventually replace current HIP and FutureCare”.

The proposal can be viewed at www.gov.bm/healthplan and the Ministry is urging the public to view the proposed plan in the lead up to “four months of public dialogue” to gain “the broadest consensus on the changes to come”.

“We welcome your input and encourage all citizens to participate in the discussion, in addition to the online citizen forum we will host town hall meetings in September,” said Ms Wilson.

The Ministry provided the following most ‘Frequently Asked Questions’:

Why is the Government making these changes?

  • Our current system of healthcare is expensive and families are struggling to pay healthcare premiums. As a population, there are too many people who have, or are at risk of having serious diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • The healthcare reforms enhance the overall minimum healthcare coverage provided to everyone – whether it is a Government or private insurer plan. The new coverage will include enhanced benefits such as greater access to primary care and certain prescription drugs. The new Bermuda Health Plan is designed so that Bermuda’s residents are able to access preventative care and early treatment.
  • Finally, by creating efficiencies in how essential healthcare is financed, healthcare premiums will be maintained at an affordable level, and co-pays will be limited to approximately $25.

How do these reforms improve health outcomes?

  • Working families are struggling to pay food, electricity and housing bills. There is little left over for healthcare. As a result, too many families have limited access to coverage for family doctors and must pay high co-pays. These hard working families then delay seeking medical care. In some cases, patients wait until they need expensive emergency care. Therefore the current system contributes to too many people not receiving early medical care which would have prevented sickness or expensive emergency procedures.
  • By redesigning the essential health benefit plan, under the Bermuda Health Plan, residents will have insurance coverage for services that have sometimes been unaffordable. The services covered under the Bermuda Health Plan, where co-pays are required, will be in the order of approximately $25 thereby reducing another barrier to seeking appropriate care.

What do better health outcomes look like?

  • Better health outcomes mean less days missing work, fewer days missing school, less trips to the hospital, and more time just enjoying family and friends. Of course this will look different depending on an individuals’ circumstances. Overall, it means that more people will live healthier lives, free of preventable diseases, such as high blood pressure and the complications which can occur as a result. Better health outcomes will reduce the need for emergency care and if in-patient care is required, the length of stay at the hospital will be shorter.
  • Over the past few years, the Health Insurance Department has piloted the Enhanced Care Programme targeted at accomplishing precisely the goals we want to achieve for the entire population. The Enhanced Care Programme has demonstrated that providing greater access to family doctors combined with care management focused on achieving better health outcomes, is highly effective.

How will this affect my current insurance plan?

  • There will be no immediate changes to your current plan. Over time, we believe the introduction of redesigned benefits will allow us to improve healthcare coverage.
  • If you are currently covered by Health Insurance Plan HIP or FutureCare, you will retain your current benefits and when the Bermuda Health Plan is launched you will receive the enhanced level of coverage such as more doctors’ visits, chronic care management and some prescription drugs. As well, healthcare providers will be compensated in a way which limits co-pays to approximately $25.

I am currently on the Health Insurance Plan [HIP] or FutureCare. Can I retain my plan or do I have to change to the Bermuda Health Plan?

  • You can retain your current plan, but will receive the enhanced minimum benefits provided under the Bermuda Health Plan when it is launched.

I am currently being insured by a private insurer [e.g., Argus, BFM, Colonial]. Can I remain with my plan or do I have to change to the Bermuda Health Plan?

  • You can retain your current level of coverage but you will need two health plans: the mandatory Bermuda Health Plan and separate supplemental benefits. This is similar to the case with pensions, where you have the Social Insurance pension and a mandatory private pension. Individuals and employers will continue to be able to select the supplemental benefit plans which best suit their requirements.

How will these changes affect seniors currently covered by FutureCare or people on HIP?

  • When Bermuda Health Plan is launched, the immediate changes to seniors covered by FutureCare or people on HIP will be reduced copays for primary care. For HIP policy holders it also means more primary care visits, significantly lower copays and $400 prescription drug cover.
  • Over time, it is envisioned that a comprehensive set of benefits under the Bermuda Health Plan will eventually replace current HIP and FutureCare – while ensuring no one is made worse off by the reforms.
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