Gov’t wants limited access to insurance companies’ database
MOUNT SALEM, St James — The Government is exploring ways to have individuals capable and willing to pay for health care to shoulder more of the burden.
According to Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, while public health institutions are capable of extracting a fee from the health cards of those who volunteer to pay, health officials have no idea of knowing if others are also insured and able to pay.
“So what we’re trying to do is to change the law to allow us limited access. Not everything about the person, but sufficient to know that they are insured. There’s an amendment to the law that is to take place that would allow that so we can collect against the insurance,” stated Tufton.
The minister was responding to suggestions and queries from Care for Cornwall Regional, a group of business interests within Montego Bay that shadows and oversees activities on the long-overdue Cornwall Regional Hospital rehabilitation project. The group was on a tour of the hospital on Tuesday.
Tufton noted that the way things are currently, the Government is in effect subsidising insurance companies.
“I don’t think the State can afford it in that regard. So, I think it’s something that we have to look at. We have been discussing it, and we need to expand on that,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
The minister said he was unable to give a time frame for the amendment to the law to take place.
However, he stressed that a no-user fee policy is currently in place for the health sector.
“Nobody is denied universal access based on their ability to pay. But, to the extent that they can afford it, and they have insurance, I think it’s fair that insurance coverage pays for some of those services,” Tufton argued.
Effective April 1, 2008 patients at public hospitals and health centres, except the University Hospital of the West Indies, benefit from several health services free of cost following the abolishment of user fees.
At the time, the then Minister of Health and Environment Rudyard Spencer had revealed that the fees foregone across public health facilities are in the region of $450 million with more than 422,000 people expected to benefit from the abolition of user fees.