Posted: Friday, July 10, 2020. 7:52 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: The COVID-19 pandemic has severely reduced the Government of Belize’s revenues causing cutbacks in all ministries and their departments, and the National Health Insurance (NHI) was not exempt. However, NHI Executive Chairman Ramon Figueroa, says that the budget cuts could have been worse, given the alternative.
Figueroa told our newsroom today that NHI had learned about the memo that GOB would be making budget cuts across the board “fairly late,” and at that time NHI was to receive the same 40 percent budget cut as all other government entities that got the memo from the Ministry of Finance.
“That would have had tremendous impact, because we have contractual obligations,” Figueroa said. “If we would have done that it would have meant having to release personnel for the clinics, which also means you would have decreased opening hours, and the overall access for the population would have decreased.”
He said that after negotiations with the MOF, NHI only had 15 percent of its budget cut. He went on to say that it was a given that the budget cut would impact service, and the team down at NHI had the task of determining which services would have to be cut that would have the least impact on the system and the people. In some instances, NHI has cut the payments it makes to clinics for imaging, laboratory, and pharmaceutical services, while in others it has placed a cap on referral services that can be made at clinics.
He stressed that the changes had to be made immediately but conceded that NHI should have kept the public better informed of the situation.Figueroa said that the reduced budget will be reviewed on a monthly basis and that they could receive further cuts from the MOF depending on government cash inflows.
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