The head of Jamaica’s largest insurance conglomerate and dominant provider of healthcare coverage wants clarity on how the plan for universal health insurance will affect persons already covered.
That number spans about 500,000 people in a population of more than 2.7 million. The insured includes family members of working Jamaicans who are insured through their employers, whether the government or private sector companies, as well as disease-specific coverage under the National Health Fund, NHF.
Sagicor Group Jamaica controls 67 per cent of the life and health insurance market, according to President & CEO Christopher Zacca, who himself initially led the task force that was convened to design a National Health Insurance Plan for Jamaicans.
His request for clarity on how the universal plan will evolve adds to rising concern among sector interests in the tobacco and other industries that are to face new taxes to fund NHIP.
How NHIP will affect the private insurance market’s group health and other business is still a question to be fully determined, but the Green Paper contemplates their inclusion in the programme through contracted services.
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, while cautioning that the tax measures are at this stage still just proposals to be signed-off on by Cabinet, said the different concerns would be addressed during consultations that are to be led by economist Dr Wesley Hughes. Those discussions will also seek to answer the question about outsourcing, the health minister told the Financial Gleaner.
The committee that developed the NHIP programme outline, which formed the basis of a green paper tabled in Parliament, was led by economist Dr Damien King, and now Hughes will anchor the next leg of marshalling public comment, Tufton said.
Hughes, who is a former head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica and was most recently the CEO of the oil-financed PetroCaribe Development Fund, said Wednesday that he is yet to be formally appointed to the role and was due to meet shortly with Tufton in that regard, when asked about his terms of reference.
The Green Paper tabled by Tufton proposes a compulsory health insurance plan that would offer equal benefits for contributors to NHIP scheme regardless of income. The consultations that will ensue will be used to refine the document into a White Paper around which legislation will be drafted.