Universal Health Coverage Through NHI Can Drive Health and Social Equity

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through National Health Insurance can be one of the greatest drivers of health equity in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. Michael Perry Gomez said Friday.

Addressing a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) High Level Meeting on Health Equity in The Bahamas at the British Colonial Hilton, Dr. Gomez said health equity is an important part of the Government of The Bahamas’ commitment to addressing social injustices and social and health inequities through a series of actions.

“Addressing inequalities in health in The Bahamas is critical to ensuring the equitable distribution of health services within the population as a whole; and my government is committed to ensuring that the health system-strengthening programmes and policies that make a significant improvement in the health and well-being of all citizens and residents of The Bahamas (are in place),” Dr. Gomez said.

Dr. Gomez said equity and equality are important indicators of human development. He said the discussion on Health Equity in The Bahamas that opened Thursday and ended Friday (July 15) at the British Colonial Hilton, was a ‘sentinel moment.’

“Indeed, this sentinel moment also comes at a pivotal time in the history of The Bahamas as we implement National Health Insurance, thereby providing our citizens with accessible, equitable and high quality healthcare – one of the most significant objectives of my government,” Dr. Gomez added.

Dr. Gomez said Universal Health Coverage is one of the most powerful social equalizers among all policy options. He said it is the ultimate expression of fairness.

“If public health has something that can help our troubled, out-of-balance world, it is the growing evidence that well-functioning and inclusive health systems contribute to social cohesion, equity and stability. They hold societies together and help reduce social tensions.”

Health officials say UHC offers financial risk protection that pools funds through tax, other government revenues and/or insurance contributions to spread the financial risks of illness across the population and allow for cross-subsidy from rich to poor and from healthy to ill.

“Universal Health Coverage means that all people can use the preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.”

Dr. Gomez noted health inequities manifest themselves in the unequal way health services are accessed by people from different backgrounds including income levels, race, ethnicity and gender, resulting in inequalities in health outcomes.

“As we move towards strengthening the health system, improving governance in the healthcare sector and achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through the implementation of National Health Insurance, it is important to identify the health inequality gaps and gradients that exist across the socio-economic spectrum in The Bahamas and to target policies and inter-sectoral programmes to address health inequities where they exist,” DR. Gomez said.

“To this end, it is also crucial that we benchmark current health equity status and that we track progress over time in order to ensure that all programmes aimed at improving the health outcomes and quality of healthcare in the country are equitable and fair for all residents and citizens of The Bahamas,” Dr. Gomez said.

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