'Good, but not enough'
Senators propose more help for the disabled as Disabilities Bill passes Upper House
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Government Senator Sophia Fraser Binns is pushing for a health-insurance scheme for members of the disabled community.
According to Fraser Binns, every effort must be made to ensure the disabled receive timely and cost-effective health care.
Contributing to the debate on the Disabilities Bill in the Upper House last Friday, Fraser Binns pointed to studies conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which found that people with disabilities report seeking more health care than people without disabilities and have greater unmet needs.
"For example, a recent WHO survey of people with serious mental disorders showed that between 35 per cent and 50 per cent of people in developed countries, and between 76 per cent and 85 per cent in developing countries, received no treatment in the year prior to the study."
She argued that while health care in the public sector is free, "there are some services which may not be available or available in a timely manner in the public-health service and, as such, from time to time, persons will have to seek private health service".
The Government senator noted that health promotion and prevention activities do not always target people with disabilities, arguing that women with disabilities, for example, receive less screening for breast and cervical cancer than women without disabilities.
Fraser Binns also charged that people with intellectual impairments and diabetes are less likely to have their weight checked, and adolescents and adults with disabilities are more likely to be excluded from sex- education programmes.
In pushing her call for health insurance for members of the disabled community, Fraser Binns said persons with disabilities are less likely to work and thus obtain employer-sponsored health insurance.
"We must remember that while disability is not the same as poor health, persons with disabilities generally experience greater risks of poor health and have higher medical utilisation and expenditures," she said.
Meanwhile, Imani Duncan-Price, another government senator, used the debate to propose the setting up of an insurance fund, similar to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), for the disabled.
"I suggest that on diagnosis, the parent of a child who has an intellectual disability should be encouraged to contribute a monthly to a fund, similar to NIS.
"This will enable the person living with disability to become the beneficiary of a small pension when he or she is 25 or 30 years old," the senator said.
Duncan-Price said it is important that the regulations for the bill effectively enable families to support people with intellectual disabilities.
In the meantime, Opposition Senator Robert Montague said that the Government should consider utilising other materials in the production of banking notes to make it easier for the disabled, especially the blind, to identify the money they are spending.
Montague said that while there are distinctive marks on current bank notes, the frequency with which they are passed from one person to another sometimes leads to the disappearance of some of these marks, making it harder for the blind to identify their money.
Floyd Morris, Jamaica's first blind senate president, said the suggestions that have been put on the table are commendable and worthy of consideration.
The Disabilities Bill was passed with 14 amendments. It will now go back to the House of Representatives for the amendments to be considered, after which it will be signed into law.