Minister Lee: We’re searching for the ‘Goldilocks solution’

Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee


PHILIPSBURG – In Wednesday’s, March 8, Council of Ministers Weekly Press Briefing, Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee clarified a number of issues including the statement of the Minister of Finance regarding progress on a National Health Insurance (NHI).

“While certainly the process of having legislation approved by parliament is the culmination of the efforts, I think it’s important to recognize that a reform of our health care system or national health insurance is a complicated process, and we need time to work together with stakeholders to make sure that everybody’s concerns and feedback is incorporated. So while the culmination will come with the eventual approval by parliament of legislative changes, there are many moving pieces to NHI and national health reform,” Minister Lee stated.

“So we need the time not only for legislation, but also for the consultation of process and making sure that we get national health insurance or national health reform correctly. If we have a system that’s underfunded, that’s going to translate into a lack of proper health care for our citizens and if it’s over funded, if it generates too much money it means that that’s money that’s removed from our economy, which also is destructive,” the Minister explained.

“So we are looking for a ‘Goldilocks solution.’ Something that’s not too expensive, not too cheap, but just right,” he said.

The Minister also announced that his Ministry is planning on short notice to begin with a more intense inspection schedule, and intense compliance effort. “I make the distinction between inspection and compliance, because I think that our overall goal is to improve compliance with our laws and our rules in the country. Making sure that businesses and citizens are aware of what those rules are is as important as the compliance efforts of the inspectors, so the information is available on our website,” Minister Lee continued.

This is an effort to improve compliance, of which inspections are part of the tools available to the ministry. “We are in discussion with the other ministries towards working on renewed efforts towards interim ministerial cooperation,” he said.

Since, controls at Maho there haven’t been that broad interim ministerial cooperation in terms of inspections. There have been pockets of cooperation, “but we are in discussions again about how to renew that ministerial cooperation.”

“And why is compliance an issue? Why is it something that we’re focusing on? Because I believe that a lack of compliance translates into #1, the loss of revenues possibly for government. It exposes governments to risks. For example as Minister of VSA, we are signing for medical evacuations for undocumented and uninsured patients, and these expenditures include air ambulance, and often very expensive medical expenditures, which come out of the budget of the government. So it exposes governments to financial risk. It also exposes employees to unsafe, and perhaps unfair working conditions, and I think when you have poor compliance it also means that as businesses compete with each other, the people who don’t comply have a competitive advantage so it creates an unlevel playing field, and actually incentivizes businesses to not be compliant. So in order to have a level playing field, in order to make sure that our economy functions properly, compliance is critical and perhaps most importantly it also means that if you have people who are working here, who are not documented, who don’t have their paperwork in order, it’s a missed opportunity for our local citizens to be properly employed,” Minister Lee stressed.

“So when we speak about compliance, what is it that we’re really speaking about is number one: If you have to have a work permit…or are exempted from having a work permit, (which) include permanent residents (like) people, who are married to Dutch nationals or Dutch passport holders, so unless you fit one of those criteria, you are obligated to have a work permit. Make sure you get your work permits,” the Minister continued.

The Minister also emphasized that, “I’m going to go through a list copy of your Chamber of Commerce registration, copy of your business law license, copies of director’s licenses, a copy of your labor registration, copy of employment, and residence permits for the employees, copies of your SVB cards, and the registration of employees, copy of lists of personnel, work schedules of employees, overtime registry for employees and a number of health and safety standards, which I won’t go into, but include lighting, proper environment, ventilation, clean drinking water, and proof that the employees receive pay-slips.”

“So expect a more intense control schedule, and I will be joining the control team for some of these. I do like the field trips to go out and kind of get a feeling for what’s happening in the community, so that we can take what’s happening in the community and bring it back to Council of Ministers, and make sure that what we see, and what needs to be corrected, is addressed in a structural manner within the policies of government,” Minister Lee concluded.