The back-and-forth between government and private insurers over the impending National Health Insurance programme continued on Thursday with the Insurance Association of the BVI responding to comments made by government ministers earlier in the week.


And even as leaders defended NHI in the House of Assembly the same day, a petition was circulating asking for the system to be redesigned.

At the opening day of NHI registration on Sept. 1, Health and Social Development Minister Ronnie Skelton criticised the IABVI, saying the organisation had been supportive of NHI over the last several years but was “nowhere to be found” when it was announced that the system would take effect in January.

The IABVI responded that its members believe everyone should have access to health care, but they have serious concerns with NHI that have yet to be addressed.

“The minister of health and social development is correct to say that private insurance firms are supportive of the principle of NHI (private companies cannot insure the uninsurable), but not supportive of how this programme is to be run given our collective experience,” the organisation stated in a press release. “We do not believe the plan is currently viable unless money is taken from other sources such as government funding or the Social Security fund.”

The IABVI also released a graph containing numbers that show the NHI fund will pay out more in claims than it collects in premiums. The release can be found on the association’s website.



In Thursday’s HOA meeting, however, Mr. Skelton touted the progress that has been made on NHI and criticised an alternative system that he claimed had been proposed by the programme’s opponents.

“We have not rested on our laurels,” he said. “Over the past 18 months since the enabling legislation was passed, the Social Security (National Health Insurance) regulations have been approved by the Cabinet, and will shortly be tabled in this honourable House.”

The alternative the minister criticised was a system that would only apply to those without health insurance: This method is unsustainable because those without insurance are usually the sickest and poorest population demographics, he explained.

“One can understand why that concept would seem appealing on the surface, but a deeper look reveals disturbing realities in several countries that have travelled this path,” he said. “[This system] was typically saddled with residents that had the highest disease burden and least ability to pay – a recipe for financial collapse.”

Though the minister didn’t mention the online petition, he may have been referring to its proposal: The petition proposes that the government offer insurance only to residents without private insurance, but it does not specify how this system should be funded.

Meanwhile, the IABVI proposed another alternative plan on its website, but that plan is different from the one described by Mr. Skelton.

The IABVI’s proposal would allow residents to keep their private insurance, but would levy a one- or two-percent tax on employers and employees. That tax would be used to create a safety net for those who are unable to obtain private insurance.

This system resembles the United States’, where citizens obtain private insurance but also pay Medicaid and Medicare taxes that go to the elderly and residents who are unable to access health care via private means.