News

Gov’t misses health card deadline

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 03, 2012    

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GOVERNMENT has missed its November deadline for the introduction of its longawaited health card, which is aimed at helping to improve the delivery of health-care services to Jamaicans.

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson in July had said that technical arrangements were being finalised for the issuing of the card by November.

However, last Friday he told the Jamaica Observer that although advances had been made, the government had missed its deadline because there was a final hurdle.

“The submission is with the Cabinet Office now; it has been there for almost two weeks; they have asked for a few details which the permanent secretary is dealing with,” Dr Ferguson told the Observer.

The health minister, who left the island for Cuba on official business on Friday, said the submission would be taken at Cabinet when he returns and the implementation put into overdrive.

“I will not be in Cabinet this Monday (today) when it meets, but certainly, I expect that Cabinet should sign off before the middle of December based on the necessity for me to be present to defend it and I get back on the 7th of December,” he explained.

He, however, did not divulge details about the process for fear of “compromising” the submission.

“Essentially what the submission would be doing is giving the authority to goahead. All the planning has already taken place as well as consultations with the major insurance stakeholders. The submission itself, I don’t want to say too much because it has not gone before Cabinet and I wouldn’t want to preempt, it’s not a normal principle,” he noted.

“After the submission is approved, we move for implementation but if I were to explain that I would move into the contents of the submission which would compromise it. What I can say is that we have done substantial work as it relates to the implementation phase,” the health minister said.

The public will also have to wait for other details such as the expenses related to the introduction of the system.

“There is a cost for the rollout; there are the numbers that would come in the first instance but I cannot provide those details now,” he added.

The card, which is expected to be “broader than the current National Health Fund card”, will give patrons of public health facilities ease of access to medications on the Vital Essential and Necessary drug list at no cost. The service will be available at public sector pharmacies and some private pharmacies.

All Jamaican residents are eligible to register for the card, which will be a requirement for all persons who seek to access drugs under the Government's free health care plan.

Jamaicans can present the GOJ Health Card along with their prescriptions to the pharmacist at any public pharmacy or participating pharmacies with the ‘GOJ Health Card accepted here’ sign. The minister said the card would also improve the mechanism to bill private health-insurance providers, as it will state whether or not the individual has health insurance.

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