FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28: The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party’s founding principles were equity, fairness and opportunity, and access for Bermudians.

In 1963, they called for the implementation of programmes for healthcare and insurance.

The country eventually responded to this call and the party as government continues to shape this vision to make sure citizens are provided with affordable, quality health care.

The PLP supports a health system that protects the public, giving every resident access to healthcare and the opportunity to continue to be healthy, and, more importantly creating a sustainable health sector by containing costs. 

Health and health care is a basic human right and the party is supportive of a universal health plan that covers all of our citizens and is affordable for our employers and employee.

The Standard Health Benefit, which currently exists, was legislated over 40 years ago and now it’s time to revisit the plan to determine if it meets the needs of our society today.  The premium costs for the plan continue to escalate and have become a financial burden to employers and residents with more than 10 per cent of our population either not having a health plan or employers reducing benefits to a basic health plan.

It is within our control to help Bermudians have a healthy life by providing a cost effective standard hospital package, and have employers reduce their overhead costs so there is the ability to hire staff and compete with international competitors for the local dollar.

As Sir Winston Churchill once stated, ‘we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’

The National Health Plan is not about adding costs to the health system, but redistributing the $600 million dollars that is currently in the system.  It is not the intent to place more undue tax burden on the residents as it is not productive for our core pillars of business or our social welfare.

The debate on the National Health Plan is a public issue and understandably a political issue.  The public’s interest is high insurance premiums impacting the lowest income recipients, and the employer’s interest is the ability to continue to be in business and make good profit margins. 

Let’s discuss issues we can agree upon:

A healthy and educated workforce is a critical component for now and for our future in an increasingly competitive global society.

To do nothing at all about the rising costs of health care will certainly lead to very detrimental future opportunities for attracting international business, decreasing new entrepreneurs into the marketplace and having less residents with health insurance.

Cost reductions in the case of ‘doing business’ in Bermuda and for local employers is good common sense and attractive.

Employers generously now pay 50 per cent of the health premium contribution; but could legally pay only the legislated 50 per cent of the standard hospital benefit.

Bermuda has the talent to fix our internal issues.

Most of us would categorically state as ‘true’ that we don’t wish any resident to become financially bankrupt because of a chronic illness.

We all have a vested interest in working collaboratively to create a win-win situation as it relates to health sector reform and the Bermuda Health Council (BHeC) welcomes feedback from the public. At this time it is counter-productive to seek positions which intend to undermine the intent of the plan, but reasonable men and women can assist in building a solution to this problem which greatly influences costs reductions.

We believe in order for our island home to continue and be successful we must invest in new health sector strategies for our citizens, both young and old, and our vulnerable populations. 

For those who might say, this is not the time for talk about change, then the question is; do you continue to wear blinders and appease ourselves by hoping that the worse won’t come and consume our potential for a better future? 

There is no perfect, ideal time to innovate, create and become more productive than this time, as life is full of risks and uncertainties, but we take courage and move forward.

The PLP knows that concrete next steps will come and more clarity on the process will be put to the public and the BHeC will invite further comments as indicated by the Minister of Health at his public meetings.

Curtis Williams is a public relations officer for the Progressive Labour Party.