Will Saint Lucia see the first phase of a National Health Insurance (NHI) programme as early as the end of this year?
A release from the government seems to state the affirmative which indicated that the implementation of such a programme will mark a major milestone in the island’s health care system.
Health Planner in the Department of Health & Wellness, Lauren James explains that the first phase of the NHI system will include an essential package of health services at the Primary care level geared at tackling non-communicable diseases.
“What this will attempt to do is have persons access healthcare when they need it without having to think about, hey do I have money to pay for this, do I have money to pay for that. So, in that way persons can be more pro-active about their health by seeking care when they need it. In the first phase, we are looking at a package of services where we are targeting more or less chronic diseases which have been affecting the country at large for example diabetes hypertension, we have the screening for cancer and other care areas,” he said.
National Health Insurance is a means to achieve universal health coverage in St. Lucia, meaning all people have access to the health services they need, when they need them, without enduring any financial hardship or paying for health care out of pocket.
“What we envision is persons paying a premium every month or every year. They would access health care and not have to pay out of pocket. Normally as it stands right now, I have an insurance package and I would have to pay for the service out of pocket and then claim from my insurance company. What we are looking for is to move away from that to have the insurance companies reimburse the providers, so that is the method where you pay your premium and then whenever you need the care you access and don’t pay,” James said.
The development of National Health Insurance is a component of the Health System Strengthening Project funded by the World Bank. Five-point five million US dollars secured from the World Bank-funded project is dedicated to the development of an NHI system in St. Lucia.