The government of Jamaica took another step closer to providing universal health coverage to the population by the next fiscal year by unveiling a green paper on the proposal for a National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP). The Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, made the announcement to the House of Representatives saying that feedback will be done on a national basis involving key stakeholders including the insurance industry and medical fraternities and others. In 2018, it was estimated that only 20 percent of the population had health insurance through their employers and the remaining 80 percent of Jamaicans were without health insurance.
Financing for the initiative would be sourced from a combination of employee contributions or premiums and industry taxes. Among the revenue sources the Ministry of Health has proposed are taxes on sugar and cannabis, raising billions to supplement healthcare costs. An excise tax focusing on cancer caused by tobacco and alcohol and a gaming and lottery levy supporting programmes for mental illness and substance abuse are also on the cards.
The Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) Dr Damien King contends that it is “feasible for Jamaica to have a national health insurance scheme given the emerging public health crisis on the horizon precipitated by the high level of chronic diseases affecting the population.” Echoing this potential public health crisis was Chris Zacca, president of Sagicor, a major player in the local insurance sector, said that his company’s actuaries have warned that the cost for healthcare in the near future “is going to overwhelm the country if something is not done”.