Saba Government Information Service

Saba Government Critical of Changes to Health Insurance Package

The government of Saba is extremely critical of the recent changes made by the Ministry of Health to the to the Health Insurance package. The Executive Council has sent a letter to the Minister of Health, Edith Schippers, and Commissioner of Health, Bruce Zagers, has also expressed his dissatisfaction to the high ranking civil servants who oversee the CN Health portfolio.

In the letter to minister, sent on January 4th, the government articulates its concern of how the new measures will impact the lower income earners and states that if the measures are put in place, they will push persons at the lowest socio economic level "in an unacceptable position".

They also indicate that the local healthcare providers see other ways that costs can be lowered and have proposed other efficiency enhancing measures, which they have repeatedly tried to discuss with staff within the ministry but to no avail. The minister has therefore been asked to suspend and reconsider the measures.

Commissioner Zagers, in his letter to the ministry’s civil servants questioned the rationale behind the changes. He used the elimination of physical therapy as an example; where it took ten years to remove it from the basic package in the Netherlands, but it will be gone in six months on the BES islands.

The commissioner also pointed out the disparity in income, pension, and the minimum wage between the islands and The Netherlands. He mentions that in European Netherlands it is possible for persons to purchase alternative insurance which can aid in the coverage of dental care and physical therapy, which is not possible in the Caribbean part of The Netherlands.

Highlighting the ministry’s lack of foresight, the commissioner questioned, "What will happen when, if as a result of the cuts there is no longer a physical therapist on the island? What will happen to the children who have already started with the orthodontist who will have to stop mid treatment because their parents can no longer afford for this to continue?"

In his conclusion, Commissioner Zagers, conveys his "disappointment" in the lack of discourse between the ministry and the islands prior to making the cuts, which he said can be compared to a "major tax increase, only coming from another ministry".