Health cheques: Some patients delayed treatment because upfront payments were too onerous. *iStock photo
Health cheques: Some patients delayed treatment because upfront payments were too onerous. *iStock photo

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28: By banning upfront payments for healthcare services, the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party is showing that we are not only responding to the public, but also remain committed to doing what we can to make life easier for the average Bermudian.

We believe that protecting access to healthcare is a priority, so when we learned that a growing number of people were being forced to delay seeing their dentist or doctor till payday and being forced to decide between paying bills or seeking healthcare, we knew that we had to act.

We met with representatives from the healthcare community and insurers to find a solution that would not only protect the people’s access to healthcare but would also ensure that healthcare providers receive their money in a timely manner.

After two years of discussion and failed attempts at voluntary compliance, we concluded that banning upfront charges for healthcare services was the only solution to this growing problem.

Our priority was to ensure that Bermudians could have healthcare when they needed it, not just when they could afford it.

While we must always attempt to balance the needs of healthcare businesses with the needs of the people, in a global recession achieving this balance is even more critical.

Healthcare providers told us they weren’t being paid on time and this was affecting their ability to pay their bills, meet payroll and operate effectively.   To address this, we have passed a law requiring that insurers pay clean claims within 30 days.

The Government insurers, GEHI, HIP and FutureCare, are able to meet this requirement for electronic claims. In fact, healthcare providers who submit their claims electronically have recently said they can receive payment in as little as three days!

Won’t please all

We recognize that no law, no matter how well crafted, won’t please everyone.

At the core of our introducing this law was the recognition that we couldn’t move Bermuda forward and make life better for our people through inaction.

A Bermuda where our people have to decide between keeping the lights on and getting health treatment is simply unacceptable.

We aren’t content with the state of healthcare in Bermuda.

Through protecting access to healthcare, driving down the cost of prescription drugs and the introduction of a National Health Plan based on equity and sustainability, we are making life better for our neighbours, our friends and our families.

We are also changing the core values and principles of our health system from one that favours the few on to one that benefits all.

We believe in a Bermuda where essential healthcare is available to all and not just the privileged.

We also believe in a Bermuda where, if you provide services, medical or otherwise, you should receive timely payment.

By banning upfront charges and ensuring that healthcare providers receive payment within 30 days, we are protecting that balance and moving Bermuda forward.

• Zane Desilva is the Minister of Health.