Patricia Pantophlet: THIS IS MY OPINON

Dear Editor,

Allow me to first say that I agree with your editorial of Friday, September 27th, with respect to the ban on medical cards for private insured.  

Specifically, where the point, a valid point, I believe, in that some will not sympathize with those patients who have private coverage. It’s a fact that those persons did not have any say in the matter. It is because the Law dictates that. A possible misconception is that some persons believe that because they are privately insured that they are "rich" nothing could be farther from the truth. The larger majority is middle class income earners and we know what that means these days.

In my last opinion article with respect to the ban, I mentioned that I was insufficiently abreast of the internal fight between the two associations; as such my opinion is not based on their counter claims.

Now after reading subsequent articles on the matter; the first being from WIMA in your edition of Monday, September 22nd followed by an article from Ms. Fenna Arnell, Head of Public Health Department, in your edition of Wednesday, September 25th followed by a statement from Mr. Eric Ellis, chairman of the St. Maarten Insurance Association (SMIA), published in your edition of Friday, September 27th this is my opinion: the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Cornelius de Weever and his Ministry dropped the ball.

My opinion is based on the following as presented by the different authors:
WIMA: "It has been negotiating with the private insurance companies since 2009"

Head of Public Health: Ms Arnell commented according to your paper: the continued non-acceptance of medical insurance cards by private practitioners are "undesirable" and "unfair" to patients who are the ones suffering. Ms Arnell went on to say that government has been urging the parties to come to a speedy resolution and would intervene and set new tariffs if "public health is compromised"

Really, Ms. Anell, are you serious? What exactly is meant by if "public health is compromised"? Does it means that a patient or family member has to die first or close to death, because that person don’t have the needed Fls. 56,00 to pay for consultation and probably don’t have that extra funds as well to fill that prescription and is forced to go days or weeks before being able to fill that prescription. Is that what it takes for the Minster and the Public Health Department to "intervene"? Ms. Arnell also stated and it’s in quote "If they really can’t come to a compromise, then government would step in and set new tariffs. Enough will be enough when we realize that public interest is being compromised". According to Ms. Arnell government was approached on this matter in May of 2012, 4 long months before the ban went into effect. If, the parties concerned, really can’t come to a compromise? Isn’t it obvious Ms. Arnell that parties have been negotiating for 4 years now and aren’t even close to coming to a compromise? Isn’t it factual that, the ban has been in effect a year and counting? Additionally, the Minister and his Ministry are aware o f this dilemma from May of 2012, months before the ban went into effect. What "if" is being referred to here? With all due respect to your Office, Ms Arnell, this is nothing more that rhetoric. The parties have been negotiating almost 4 years now. Please explain to those cardholders, the patients, the sufferers, the victims, what more needs to happen before government intervenes!

Mr. Ellis: In his press statement he commented that there is a Price Ordinance (Article 2 (1) and 2), which states that medical practitioners must have the prior approval of the Department of Public Health to increase medical tariffs. If this is the case the unlawful increase in consultation fee is not "undesirable" or "unfair", Ms. Arnel, it is, what it is, illegal! Mr. Ellis stated that after several attempts to bring parties together the Minister did not give any instructions to either parties to negotiate with WIMA and SMIA. Is it that those patients/victims/sufferers, affected by the ban have to wait until National Health Plan is in place, really?

While I believe that the both parties concerned are liable for the ban and the consequences thereof, the Public Health Minister and his Ministry dropped the ball miserably by its non-decisive, non-intervention position, thereby not upholding, safeguarding and guaranteeing the rights of those patients, victims, sufferers, who continue to suffer.

This is my opinion.

Patricia Pantophlet