The Significance of NHI


by Caribupdate Weekly

When former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his government embarked on the construction of our international airport at Point Salines, in the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution, the project marked a watershed moment in our country’s history.

For one thing, the airport was going to ensure that travellers to and from Grenada will no longer have to be subjected to repeated indignity by immigration officials during stopovers at Grantley Adams International in Barbados and Piarco International in Trinidad. Another benefit of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) was that it opened a new economic frontier for Grenada, especially for our tourism sector.

So, with all the positives associated with Maurice Bishop International, it is easy to understand why it is often referred to as Grenada’s most significant project ever. However, Caribupdate Weekly believes MBIA’s most significant and most important status is about to be usurped and supplanted by the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI).

MP Emmalin Pierre, the minister responsible for National Health Insurance, says the aim is for this healthcare initiative to cover a series of patient services, including computerised tomography or CT Scan and magnetic resonance imaging or MRI.

“We are committed, as a government, to ensure that every child, every man, every woman, in Grenada have access to a basket of services that they do not have to pay for at the point of service,’’ Pierre told reporters recently. “We believe that the time has come that we take this bold step – as challenging as it is – to make sure that we can bring National Health Insurance, as a means of accessing those services that many of our people find it difficult to access on a daily basis.’’

The proposed NHI is nothing to be taken for granted; its successful implementation will change life for the poor and vulnerable, across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, as never before has happened. NHI is a universal healthcare scheme; something that is an issue of debate in wealthier nations.

For decades, for example, Canada has had a publicly funded healthcare system, where all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without paying out-of-pocket. The federal government is responsible for providing funding support for the healthcare services, through taxes paid by Canadian workers.

In the United States, former Democratic President Barrack Obama attempted a healthcare revolution in the US when he passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Among the goals of the ACA – also known as “Obamacare’’ – are increasing the quality of healthcare and expanding consumer protections and rights; and improving employer-based healthcare, thereby making it available to more employees. Obamacare also makes a number of improvements to care for specific groups such as women, seniors and those who did not previously qualify for Medicaid.

During the US presidential election campaign, Republican Donald Trump promised that, if elected, he’ll immediately “repeal and replace’’ Obamacare. And, as we all know, he was elected President of the United States of America. However, thus far, he has been unable to keep his ACA promise. He has encountered resistance from Americans – even those who voted for him – who are benefitting from Obamacare. As well, a majority of Republican lawmakers are unhappy with his ACA replacement plan.

Changes in working conditions, ushered in by the late Grenada Prime Minister Eric Gairy in the 1950s, were remarkable in moving our country forward. And, Maurice Bishop International Airport and the National Insurance Scheme are invaluable assets to the Tri-island State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. But, we believe that all these will pale in comparison to the launch of National Health Insurance. It’s an initiative, as Minister Emmalin Pierre puts it, to make “proper healthcare more accessible and more affordable to people.’’ It’s about “caring for everybody, regardless of their circumstances; that is what NHI wants to bring to our people,’’ according to Mrs Pierre.

We applaud the efforts at setting up National Health Insurance in Grenada.

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