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Healthcare reform warning

  • Health plan: Kim Wilson, minister of health, has outlined how the Standard Health Benefit would be replaced by a unified system (File photograph)

A new pressure group of medical professionals warned patients could be at risk if the government rushes ahead with healthcare reform.

Patients 1st Bermuda fears the number of under and uninsured residents would increase under the Bermuda Health Plan 2020.

Members say patients’ access to healthcare would be jeopardised, and that practices would lose business.

The campaign group, set up in response to the health plan, comprises more than 75 physicians under the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association, as well as dentists, physiotherapists, nurses, pharmacists and employers.

They believe the plan is based on outdated figures and are calling for wider consultation over cost, benefits and consequences.

The Ministry of Health argued it is “absolutely committed” to using the best data available.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, outlined in August how the Standard Health Benefit would be replaced by a unified system, in which all residents are in the same basic insurance pool.

But Janie Brown, the treasurer of the Bermuda Dental Association, said that many people would not be able to afford any supplemental insurance.

Dr Brown said: “We will lose staff because we wont be able to afford them. It will result in shorter appointments, longer waits and practices closing their doors.

“People have to be mindful of the fact that our practices are businesses. It will force us to buy cheaper products or if we can’t pay our bills we will be forced to close.”

Dr Brown added that dental practices provided pro bono services for those in need because they put patients ahead of costs.

She said that the Government’s claim that the health plan could be delivered for about $513 per person a month for adults was based on old, inflated population figures.

She warned that the Government could be forced to make up any shortfall by increasing monthly payments, or through tax.

The dental association has voiced its concerns in a meeting with Ms Wilson and Jennifer Attride-Stirling, the health permanent secretary, and Ricky Brathwaite, the acting chief executive for the Bermuda Health Council.

A spokesman for the BMDA said: “The costs and coverage of the proposed reform has not been shared by Government. The mock plan they have published is calculated on incorrect data.

“Bermuda’s healthcare providers support reform to reduce patient costs and to protect the under and uninsured. What we don’t support is rushed reform that lacks real data and could put lives at risk.”

He said members had met with patients since the first town hall meeting in September.

“The BMDA realised that the breadth and depth of information Government presented was complicated and noticeably incomplete,” he said.

“During our visits with our patients, we realised they were struggling to understand how this might affect them directly. We have also had dentists and allied health services call to meet with us as they have been experiencing the same challenges that the physicians had, and their patients are equally concerned.”

The spokesman said 95 per cent of BMDA participants have voted against the plan.

A health ministry spokeswoman said its data had been received from health insurers that recorded every single local and overseas claim, as well as population health surveys and hospital data.

She said more than 30 meetings and town halls had taken place so far, and added: “We are continuing dialogue with healthcare providers to ensure the data used and parameters of analysis are accurate.”

The spokeswoman said: “The ministry continues its open consultation and has communicated to every group that the next stage, beyond the public period, is to establish working groups to build on the feedback received and develop concrete proposals with stakeholders at the table.”

She noted that the 2016 Census report showed 20 per cent of Bermuda’s population is either uninsured or has basic coverage inferior to the mock health plan.

“Such coverage leaves persons exposed in the face of a chronic illness or a catastrophic health event,” she said.

“The mock health plan would improve the core insurance and seeks to provide decent coverage to keep people healthy and protect them when they are ill.

“The intent of the reforms is to improve on the current situation which has one in five residents inadequately covered.”

Stakeholder groups are organising a series of town hall meetings which will be publicised via the Patients 1st Bermuda Facebook page.

For further information, e-mail patients1stbda@gmail.com or join the Facebook group Patients 1st Bermuda.

The Ministry of Health encourages any patients to e-mail feedback to healthplan@gov.bm.

The seniors’ advocacy group Age Concern plans to hold its own forum to discuss the proposals on December 4.