After reading the report of the Blue Ribbon Commission for the proposed National Health Plan, I am appalled that such a document could be presented to Government for consideration with so many unanswered questions.
Having lived with the fear that Government might some day want to introduce such a plan, fear because so many other countries have tried and failed, I decided to read on through all 150 pages hoping with each page that I might see something that would make me feel that they have found something that all these other countries missed. Each page left me more distressed.
It is, quite simply, a proposal for a very expensive experiment.
I am reminded of the poem by the poet Berton Braley:
A dollar for the services
A true producer renders
(And a dollar for experiments
Of Governmental spenders!)
A dollar for the earners
And the savers and the thrifty-
(And a dollar for the wasters,
It's a case of fifty-fifty!)
Before calling on the long-suffering public to bear yet another tax, a tax which will be sure to increase with regularity while the benefits and services decrease with the same regularity, the Government should first make a supreme effort to educate the Bahamian people on the necessity of taking care of themselves.
They should first introduce a nation wide program on personal health care.
It's the classic case of "putting the cart before the horse."
With that omission they are in effect telling its citizens to continue with their lifestyle of drinking and smoking, eating junk food and being sedentary. There should be no need to watch their weight, blood pressure and cholesterol or be concerned about their sexual lifestyle. After all, their Government is introducing an income tax which will allow them to join the predicted long lines at the clinics to get their medication to treat the sins of all their excesses. Their friendly and paternalistic Government will even extract a dollar a day from the pensioners to help them pay for it.
Sure, there are some people who make a genuine effort to take care of themselves.
Then let Government pursue a plan where they can work along with private insurance to take care of those people. Let the heavy taxes be upon those who do not believe in prevention but want someone to rescue them when they have failed because they have not tried.
It's interesting to note on page 92 of the report that they cleverly try to give the impression that the Nassau Institute is the only organization opposed to this experiment. Perhaps they have been the first to do the research and take the interest but it would be in the interest of every Bahamian to read the articles by the Institute on National Health Care, particularly the article of April 4, 2004.
"Socialized Medicine is the Problem." Referring to Canada's National Health Plan it states, in part, that " Prime Minister Jean Chretien changed his mind about his country's system of socialized medicine and now favors a two-tier health system, including user fees and private provision – a case of too little, too late."
Canada's Health Care system was introduced in 1962 (so he changed his mind after 42 years.) Is the Bahamas willing to try it their way for 42 years?
A Government does not become a "cradle to the grave" surrogate for its citizens overnight but it seems that the Bahamas is on its way. What will be next, a tax to help pay for rent, food, clothing? They are all necessities of life.
The BRC stated in its report that the Nassau Institute is against the Government being involved in education and health. I would not presume to try to answer for the Institute but your comment has paid them a compliment. We just need to look at the Government's record in education, Hatchet Bay, Hotels, Bahamasair, etc.
Should we now ask them to experiment with health care?
Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Sidney Sweeting.
The views expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Nassau Institute (which has no corporate view), or its Advisers or Directors.