Tuesday, January 26, 2016

NHI Bahamas Marks Significant Milestones

Nassau, The Bahamas - January 25, 2016 - The Government of The Bahamas highlighted several significant milestones in the implementation of NHI Bahamas and the improvement of the health care system overall.

Peter Deveaux-Isaacs, the Permanent Secretary for National Health Insurance and Dr. Delon Brennen, NHI's Programme Director made several announcements today, the launch of www.nhibahamas.gov.bs, a public information website, the NHI Bahamas logo, ongoing health system strengthening activities, and continued stakeholder consultation and public information sessions.

"NHI is a key initiative to building a more modern and prosperous Bahamas," said Permanent Secretary Deveaux Isaacs.

NHI Bahamas is part of a wider programme of improvements being made to the health system. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Public Hospitals Authority, Health System Strengthening activities are ongoing and will continue to be the backbone for delivering better health system performance in the future. Such activities include extended public clinic hours, an appointment based system for shorter wait times, improvements to existing public clinics on all islands and many more.

"The Government of The Bahamas is committed to building a health care system that is Modern, Affordable, and Accessible,and aims to make The Bahamas the healthiest country in the Caribbean region by the year 2040.These are the values that are at the core of all planning and policy-making decisions regarding health care for Bahamians," said the Permanent Secretary.

Approximately 70% of Bahamians - that is over 200,000 people in The Bahamas - do not have health insurance and often have to pay for health care out of their own pockets. Further, research shows that amongst people without health insurance, 32% have at some point needed medical treatment but did not seek help because they were worried about the cost.

NHI Bahamas is being phased in over several years to ensure the Government's ability to pay for it sustainably. The five phases of NHI Bahamas include:
  • o   Phase 1: Registration
  • o   Phase 2: Enrollment
  • o   Phase 3: Primary Health Care Coverage
  • o   Phase 4: Select Catastrophic Coverage
  • o   Phase 5: Full Benefits Coverage
The first phase is already underway, with Bahamians starting to register for their National Insurance Board (NIB) Smart Card, which will act as their NHI card. Bahamians are encouraged to "get your card to get your care". NIB is making a big push for registration and has a number of available registration centers, with additional locations added to accommodate this exercise. Citizens are encouraged to call NIB for more details on registration locations at 225-5642.

Once registered, Bahamians can choose to receive care from a registered and certified doctor in the private or public sector, with no difference in cost for primary care services. Those who currently have private health insurance do not have to give that up if they do not want to.

Dr. Brennen provided some examples of the primary care coverage persons will be entitled to under NHI Bahamas saying, "A pregnant mother will be able to get an ultrasound to check on her unborn child without having to pay for it. Those at risk for diabetes can have screening done free of charge. You can go to your primary care doctor for an annual checkup without having it impact your bank account."

All health costs for primary care services will be paid for by the Government of The Bahamas through general revenue collected by the Ministry of Finance. It is estimated that this phase of NHI Bahamas will cost the Government approximately $25 million from April until June and will be tracked and forecasted each quarter thereafter based on utilization rates and cost saving.As the programme progresses, full benefits, including catastrophic coverage, will be included in NHI Bahamas.

The new NHI Bahamas logowas unveiled at the press conference. "The logo really embodies the values of NHI Bahamas. It signifies the importance of the community jointly creating a National Health Insurance programme that is modern, affordable and accessible for legal residents of The Bahamas," said Permanent Secretary Deveaux-Isaacs.

The NHI Secretariat also launched www.nhibahamas.gov.bs,the only source for accurate and complete information on NHI Bahamas.

The website acts as a hub of information and provides important content on understanding NHI and details about what is covered, as well as addressing some of Bahamians' most common questions regarding National Health Insurance Bahamas. 

The NHI Bahamas draft legislation is also expected to be released to the Bahamian community for comment within short order. NHI Bahamas extends an invitation to all stakeholders from within the health services profession, the insurance industry and other groups, to review and provide insights on the programme, which is designed to improve patient-centered care. 

The NHI Secretariat also announced that in February, NHI Bahamas will begin hosting another round of consultations and conversations within the islands of the northern Bahamas that include Abaco, Bimini and Grand Bahama.  A complete listing of dates and times for public meetings will be available online.

For more information contact the NHI Secretariat at 502-7601 or info@nhibahamas.gov.bs.

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