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Bahamas expects to implement national health insurance in 2016

Shane Gibson

San Juan, Nov 25 (EFE).- The Bahamas government expects to start in 2016 the implementation of the National Health Insurance program, first approved in 2006, to ensure universal access to medical services at lower cost.

In an event to celebrate the retirement of a group of health workers in Grand Bahama on Monday, the minister of Labor and National Insurance, Shane Gibson, said the government is working to advance the implementation of the NHI.

“This is a pivotal time in our country, as we look at recent reports in 2010, they said over 600 persons died as a result of not having access to affordable health care,” Gibson said.

The NHI plan aims to provide healthcare to all legal residents of the Bahamas regardless of age, income or health status.

Workers are supposed to contribute less than 10 per cent of their income in taxes to the plan, which is to cover outpatient visits, prescription drugs, lab tests & imaging services and hospital care, among other services.

Under the administration of Hubert Ingraham, the National Prescription Drug Plan – one of the main elements of the NHI – began in 2010 to provide free-of-charge medicines to patients in first two stages of diseases and then offering them at minimal cost if they entered advanced stages.

In recent months, the government has selected Costa Rican consulting firm Sanigest International to study the costs of implementation of the NHI.

According to the National Health System of Bahamas Strategic Plan 2010-2020, an estimated 70 percent of the country’s 347,000 people are overweight, 38 percent engage in little-to-no physical activity, 37 percent suffer from hypertension and 10 percent have type 2 diabetes.

Tourists and undocumented immigrants will not be eligible for care under the NHI.