Minister Lee and stakeholders attend conference on National Health Financing Initiatives

Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee

PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor Emil Lee, and representatives from the Ministry recently attended the 11th annual Caribbean conference on National Health Financing Initiatives, which took place in Bonaire.

In addition to representatives of the Ministry of VSA, representatives from SZV and the SMMC were also present.

As St. Maarten embarks on plans for National Health Insurance, the Ministry attended the conference as an important part of the research process. “Many other countries have launched National Health Insurance schemes. We believe that much can be learned from the successes, failures and challenges that others in the Caribbean have learned. If we structure NHI properly, we can help many of our citizens while also improving the quality of life of our people. If we structure NHI badly, this can result in a poorly functioning health care system that is a huge financial burden to the government and the country. In addition to the challenges surrounding the design of the health care system based on the solidarity principle, St. Maarten’s small population size makes the design of a sustainable model even more challenging,” Minister Lee explained.

The conference was well attended by over 100 attendees from all over the Caribbean and beyond. Participants and presenters comprised of representatives from various countries across the region as well as Kingdom Partners, including Health Facility operators, health educators, Government employees, insurance companies, professors, doctors, and policy makers. Together they shared experiences and knowledge as it pertained to financing of health services, national health insurance plans and sustainable health insurance schemes.

With the theme “Health Financing: Strategic Management, Spending Wisely” the conference focused on providing information on efficiency and increasing the value for money. “While the cost of health care continues to rise, Governments’ budgets are constantly being cut around the world. Therefore, existing money needs to be spent wisely in order to continue to be able to provide quality health care services. The Caribbean in particular is facing similar challenges such as changing demographics (growing elderly population as a percentage of the population), underperforming economies, issues with unemployment, growing national debts and ever increasing costs of healthcare,” Lee continued.

As one of the tangible outcomes of the conference, the delegation has initiated agreements with Professor Wynand van der Ven, the former Programme Director of the Master Health Economics, Policy and Law course at Erasmus University Rotterdam, who is one of the founding fathers of the European Risk Adjustment Network. He is proposed to assist with commenting on the NHI draft legislation, but also functions as a facilitator for the stakeholder consultations and implementation strategies. He has a vast wealth of information and will help improve how NHI is rolled out in St. Maarten.

“We consider ourselves lucky to have been able to engage Dr. van der Ven, as many of the health policy makers attending the conference were his former students. He is a well-respected expert on health care financing, who understands the local challenges we face in the Caribbean.  We are delighted and look forward to having the Professor assist us with the process of designing a National Health Insurance Program that fits the needs of the country,” Minister Lee concluded.