Sun | Sep 24, 2017

MAJ rips government over health insurance tax

Published:Friday | March 17, 2017 | 3:00 AMPaul Clarke
Dr Myrton Smith

The Government's recent announcement to apply tax on group health insurance has not gone down well with the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), which said that it feared that such a move would negatively impact the already overburdened public health-care system.

"We are concerned that the Government's move to apply GCT (general consumption tax) to health insurance premiums will drive up the cost of insurance, with the risk that many persons will be unable to afford it," said the association's president, Myrton Smith, adding that persons may have to review and revise their coverage options and become underinsured.

"We anticipate that more persons will flock to the already overburdened public health-care facilities."

He continued: "With the introduction of additional financial burdens on Jamaicans in need of health care, it is a good time for the Government to unveil how they plan to improve the delivery of health care to all Jamaicans. There is the need to fast-track changes that will make a positive impact."

Smith noted that universal health care is a concept that forms an important part of any nation's push towards prosperity and that the removal of any impediment to the average citizen's access to health care is vital.

ERRONEOUS AND DISINGENUOUS

"The thought that employers will volunteer to bear the costs related to the payment of GCT is at best erroneous and at worst disingenuous," the MAJ head said in a press statement yesterday.

"The Government, as a major employer and a large purchaser of group health insurance, has a track record of passing on increases in premiums to the employees. This is what they have done over the years to the medical doctors. Why then would we expect that the Government will behave differently with this new tax or that other employers would be any more willing to absorb the cost?"

The MAJ said that with less than four per cent of GDP spent annually on the health sector, the financing of health care in Jamaica remained suboptimal.

One strategy utilised by many countries is to have national health insurance schemes that force persons to contribute to a health insurance policy when they are well so that when they are ill, they can be taken care of.

"Jamaica currently has no such national health insurance scheme. It was an important part of the manifesto of the current Government that such a plan would be launched. Not much has been heard recently about the status of the plans for this scheme," the MAJ said.