A revised package of health benefits could cut out-of-pocket expenses for the public, according to plans unveiled by Bermuda’s health minister yesterday.
However, specifics on what the new plan will provide, as well as who will administer the scheme, remain unclear.
Kim Wilson said that the Bermuda Health Plan 2020 would replace the Standard Health Benefit coverage for all the island’s 65,000 residents.
She said that the proposed unified system “is best suited to achieve efficiencies, economies of scale and cost savings”.
The minister told a press conference: “A unified system means that all residents will be in the same basic insurance pool, sharing health costs throughout all of Bermuda’s residents.”
The government website estimates the prospective plan could chop annual expenses for a family of four from $25,536 to $17,068 compared with the current system.
A hypothetical model for a single adult shows the present yearly cost of $7,058 potentially dropping to $6,308, with suggested savings such as:
• Copay per visit to a GP, for two visits a year, cut from $80 per visit to $25
• Copay for a single yearly visit to a specialist, from $200 to $50
• $400 coverage annually for spending in prescription medicines
Naz Farrow, the chief executive of Colonial Group International said yesterday that the company supported a scheme to improve health and reduce costs, but warned the creation of a new system was a “massive and complex undertaking”.
Ms Wilson said that the new benefits package “will be designed to help make us healthier and result in real savings by placing caps on copayments while ensuring healthcare businesses can be financially stable”.
She added that a new draft plan for public consultation includes “access to doctors and specialists, home-care services and basic coverage for medicines, dental, vision and overseas care”.
Ms Wilson said that it was estimated the BHP could be provided for $514 a month for adults and $178 a month for children.
She added: “This would be $257 each, when shared between employer and employee.
“It would replace SHB and, therefore, includes everything already in SHB.”
Responsibility for administering the plan had yet to be decided, she said. It would be part of a twofold consultation expected to last four months.
Ms Wilson explained: “One, it will be to decide what does that Bermuda Health Plan 2020 look like — what type of benefits should be included.
“The second part of the consultation will include the development of a road map as to how we will effectively transition our health financing from the current, disjointed, expensive methodology towards a unified system.”
Ms Wilson did not rule out a possible quango arrangement to administer the plan, in addition to private and government-run schemes.
She was tight-lipped on whether one administration model was preferred over another.
Ms Wilson said: “The consultation period will allow members of the public and private sector to participate in this process.
“It is very important that they are fully engaged. No decisions are final.”
Ms Wilson said that health insurance providers had been “intimately involved” with consultation to date.
She said that a stakeholder consultation document that detailed feedback from health insurance providers and other groups would be available in “due course”.
Ms Wilson issued a “caution” to Bermudians in her speech.
She said: “There will be members of our community who will be content with the status quo, not wishing to advance the reform measures I have just spoken about, and who think that the fundamentals of our healthcare system in place for the last 50 years should continue.
“This government does not agree.”
Ms Wilson did not provide an answer when pressed on what specifically would be opposed in the new plan.
She said: “I can anticipate, without looking in a crystal ball, that if we change a system that has systemically disserviced a large segment of our population for over 50 years, that there are likely going to be detractors.”
Ms Farrow said that Colonial agreed with the “high-level goals” proposed in the BHP.
She added: “The proposed creation of a ‘new healthcare system’ will be a massive and complex undertaking requiring the highest degree of technical and financial planning, co-ordination and community co-operation.”
Ms Farrow said the company welcomed Ms Wilson’s “commitment to meaningful and effective consultation with stakeholders”.
She added: “We also appreciate the minister’s statement that the road map to achieving the 2020 plan, as she framed it, is ‘complicated’ with much to be made clear on economic, administrative and transitional questions that will have material effect on the viability of the plan itself.”
John Wight, the president and chief executive of BF&M, said the company had no comment for now.
Questions sent to insurers Argus Group were unanswered by press time yesterday.
However, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Health, called the announcement a “flavour of the month”.
She said the plan was a move by Ms Wilson “to show their relevance and to attempt to dupe the public that something is being done to control costs” and that it came amid “a total lack of transparency concerning the vision for healthcare and curtailed costs”.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “In the past parliamentary year, the minister has announced and passed legislation to effect several piecemeal changes to the healthcare system, which has resulted in increased health insurance costs as there is a clear lack of understanding of the drivers of healthcare costs.”
• To read Kim Wilson’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”