Government set to reverse free healthcare policy?


Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson seems set to reverse the free healthcare policy, which was introduced 4yrs ago under the former administration.  In a recent public address, Dr Ferguson said, ” those who can afford to pay should pay”.

The question is,  can we afford to lose “free healthcare” at this stage, when persons are suffering and can barely afford to buy food much less pay for health services. There is no doubt that there are problems with the existing system, but instead of fixing the problem we are about to see many who are just barely surviving being asked to pay for healthcare.

I think this is a retrograde step by the new administration, which has championed itself as caring and looking after the interest of the poor and near poor in this country. It has been said the system has been overwhelmed since the introduction of the free healthcare system, which is a clear indication that Jamaicans are utilizing the system to seek affordable healthcare.

The fact is, those who can afford to pay are already paying. I do not see persons in the middle and upper class  utilizing the free healthcare; instead they will always opt to pay for private healthcare. So those most likely suffer from this move, (if it becomes a reality) are the very persons who are barely hanging on, given the tough economic conditions that exist today and  who really need the service.

The problem with the former system of user fee is, it requires some level of administration to complete needs analysis to determine who ” can pay vs those who cannot pay”. In my mind it’s a complete waste of resources and money to have people being employed and paid, to try and figure out who can pay and who cannot pay. Use the money to enhance the service instead of employee more administrators who contribute nothing to the delivery of healthcare.

As I mentioned above these is a problem in the free healthcare system in the administration of pharmaceutical, where persons (“ginnals”) have collected the drugs under the system then turn around and sell those drugs for a profit.

To fix the problem, the government should turn over the administration of drugs to either Sagicor or Blue Cross via a tender process. How I picture this working is similar to what exist today with your Blue Cross or Sagicor card.  If you “qualify” you will received a card with your name and a set amount of money or let’s call it drug equivalent.

You then present this card to your local pharmacy and collect your drugs, when you have used up your allocated amount for the year, then that’s it, if you need more drugs you purchase it at market rates. This I believe will go a far way in stamping out this corrupt practice by the many persons who collect the cheap drugs and sell it, in the name of ” eating a food”.

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