Implementation of a National Health Insurance (NHI) for Grenada is still in the pipeline though the process has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grenadian-born and USA-trained neurologist Dr Kester Nedd, Chairman and CEO of Joint Independent Provider Association (JIPA), the Miami-based company contracted to develop and implement the NHI, gave a progress report during a two-hour televised programme on Tuesday.
He noted that though COVID-19 delayed the progress and resources had to be shifted to keep the country and its people safe from COVID-19, in the interim work continued including preparing the information technology systems to run NHI and pay claims.
With the technology already in place and other prerequisites, Dr Nedd said the basic work was done to implement NHI, projecting a time frame of January 2022 for the implementation of some aspects of NHI.
He said discussions are ongoing with government “to figure out how that’s done and which elements [to implement]. Post COVID, we have been dealing with some serious challenges and they have been very supportive of us in trying to move this forward.”
The Chairman is hopeful that in the coming months progress can be made including “passing legislation, beginning the registration process, starting to build the collection system, contracting with insurance companies and bringing doctors and hospitals together in a unified way under our network….”
In addition, he noted that in the coming months, extensive dialogue can be expected with the people to answer their questions.
Despite being in a pandemic, Dr Nedd assured that “this is the right time to implement NHI despite the economic downturn and we have put measures in place in the model that will allow us to implement it.” He noted however that while the core aspects of the NHI can be implemented, certain phases may be implemented at delayed rate.
“We created a model so that in the worst of times, NHI will be sustainable. That’s a true test of the model we created because the model is adjustable,” he said, adding that when there are limited resources, NHI will still be available.
Speaking to the guiding principles of the NHI, Dr Nedd said these include government’s social responsibility to provide quality health care to all citizens and the need for NHI to be sustainable, available, accessible and affordable.
Explaining briefly how NHI will work, the JIPA CEO said “NHI should become the collecting body for health care in Grenada; that way we have the ability to allocate the appropriate charges to insurance companies when care is rendered in Grenada so they can pay to the NHI and the NHI can guarantee those payments to providers.”
He explained that the current model is that there’s no way of tracking and monitoring the monies. Dr Nedd suspects that there is less than 10% of Grenadians with health insurance while about 40% can afford to pay for health insurance.
In addition to that, he noted that “Grenada is suffering in terms of health care” because the people who can afford to pay for health care leave the country. This, he hopes the NHI can correct.
Dr Nedd shared that currently taxpayers fund the health care services received by foreigners while in Grenada, but to get foreigners to pay, a proposal was submitted as part of the NHI to look at various models that includes collecting monies via airport fees or by them providing documentation that their insurance in their homeland will pay.
Citing health care an economic booster to any country, Dr Nedd explains that “NHI is a funding mechanism that allows you to drive the health care delivery system. NHI doesn’t provide the health care but NHI, through funding, allows the health care system to thrive.”
Explaining how the NHI will coexist with existing health insurance companies and policy holders who don’t want lose their current health insurance benefits, Dr Nedd stated that the “NHI will contract with many of those insurance plans to work with them so that when care is delivered by the network of providers in Grenada they will through the NHI to provide payment to the providers for the services that are covered by those insurance plans….”
Noting that NHI will collaborate with private providers, he stated that for NHI to work there must be a public-private partnership.
Among the benefits of having an NHI, Nedd said includes increased services, health facilities being fully staffed with professionals and coverage for all Grenadians but those who can’t afford to pay would not be required to pay. More so, he cited persons not having to pay for services immediately, accessibility to services and job opportunities.