Forum to come up with regional health insurance

The forum is expected to explore a regional health insurance pool.

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Bridgetown

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The insurance industry and health care professionals meet in Port of Spain on Thursday to discuss how to create the benefit routinely denied to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean – health insurance.

An insurance and health forum aimed at building partnerships between the industry and the public health sectors is being organised by a coalition of business and health figures.The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the Insurance Association of the Caribbean (IAC) and the Pan Caribbean Business Coalition (PCBC) have organised the forum, with support from the United States aid agency, USAID.

The forum’s objective is to “build public-private partnerships across the Pan Caribbean Region between the insurance and health sector to enhance access to treatment by people living with HIV (PLHIV) and reduce the stigma discrimination associated with the disease,” according to a USAID statement.

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has applied to the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS to finance a proposed health insurance scheme for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Eastern Caribbean.

USAID said it would help the OECS revise its Global Fund application.

The forum is expected to explore a regional health insurance pool. With tiny populations, the risk pools for Caribbean countries makes health insurance an elusive goal in the Eastern Caribbean, and is non-existent for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

“Over the past few years the concept of regional health insurance has gained increasing visibility in policy discussions among CARICOM members, and the idea was explicitly recommended in the joint PAHO/CARICOM 2006 Report,” USAID said.

With the advent of economic union in the OECS and the CARICOM single market offering job opportunities and increased mobility for Eastern Caribbean, health insurance is becoming more attractive.

Wednesday’s meeting will seek consensus on how to provide insurance products to people living with virus and obtain commitments from the partners for the plan.

Participants to the forum include representatives from the regional Ministries of Health, the private insurance sector and members of the PANCAP network. Pointing to its likely role in the process, USAID stressed that “external support” would be needed to boost health insurance programmes for the poorest and most vulnerable, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Activities will include participation in pertinent national and regional discussions and targetted technical assistance to ensure private sector representation in discussions on health insurance,” the American aid agency said.

The Barack Obama administration has been focussing efforts on strengthen heath systems through proving technical assistance in health insurance, including HIV/AIDS benefits either at a national level or as part of a regional health insurance system, USAID said.

“The initiative is part of the increased focus on health systems strengthening under U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Health Initiative,” USAID said.?

It said the major goals of the efforts to strengthen health systems, already heavily strained by the AIDS epidemic, include creating health care systems are more responsive, equitable and efficient and offer social and financial protection. CMC jg/2011

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