WITU is concerned about the proposed National Health Insurance for St. Maarten

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Stuart Johnson President of the Windward Island Teachers Union (WITU)

 

Philipsburg – The President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU), Stuart Johnson, has voiced serious concerns about the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) in St. Maarten. Mr. Johnson’s concerns highlight issues related to public awareness, the quality of healthcare services, access to preventative care, medication policies, and the impact on the vulnerable in our country.

One of the primary concerns raised by Mr. Johnson is the lack of public awareness regarding the NHI program. He emphasized the importance of transparent communication to ensure that all citizens are informed about the changes and implications of the new proposed healthcare system. Johnson asked, “When will a series of town hall meetings be convened in the various districts?”Public engagement and education on the NHI are crucial to facilitate a smooth transition.

Mr. Johnson expressed apprehension about the proposed NHI saying it seems, “we will pay more, and receive less”. He stressed the need to maintain or improve the quality of healthcare services while ensuring affordability for all residents of St. Maarten. It is vital to strike a balance that does not burden individuals and families with excessive healthcare costs.

“Has an economic impact assessment been done to see the effect on the business sector this new proposed NHI will have in our country? And if so, then who has conducted this assessment? Has the business sector been consulted and what is their opinion on it?  Or is it simply to rush this proposal through ensuring it’s approved by the relevant stakeholders by January 1, 2024?” Johnson questioned.

Another significant concern addressed by Mr. Johnson is the absence of a comprehensive preventative medical care framework within the NHI plan. “If it’s in the plan, then I’ve not seen it or go back to the drawing board and ensure it is properly worked out, “Johnson stated. Johnson added, “Preventative care is essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of the population, and its proper inclusion should be a priority in the NHI program.”

Regarding medication policies, Mr. Johnson raised concerns about the use of generic medicines, especially for vulnerable groups like senior citizens and individuals with allergies to generic medications. He emphasized the need for a balanced approach to medication selection that ensures the safety and well-being of all citizens.

Mr. Johnson’s concerns extended to the proposed premium increases under the NHI system, as well as the availability and quality of palliative care. It is essential, he argued, to strike a balance between sustainability and affordability for all citizens while providing necessary support for those facing serious health challenges or a terminal diagnosis.

In addition to these concerns, Mr. Johnson questioned the future management body of the NHI program and called for clarity on its composition and responsibilities. He also raised important questions about the potential inclusion of eye care services, dental care packages, access to preventative medicines and vitamins, and the introduction of healthy food programs, especially within school breakfast programs.

Finally, Mr. Johnson emphasized the need for robust measures to safeguard the NHI fund, ensuring its sustainability and effectiveness in the long run.

“WITU encourages a thorough and inclusive dialogue between stakeholders, policymakers, and the public to address these concerns and develop an NHI program that serves the best interests of everyone and not just to add another financial burden on the people of St. Maarten,” Johnson concluded.