Affordable health care on conference agenda

Cayman’s system of healthcare is undergoing transition as government and healthcare practitioners work toward a system that is affordable and accessible to all. This year’s second annual Healthcare 20/20 conference takes place from 17 – 19 November at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

The theme for this year’s conference is Healthcare Economics: the search for quality and affordability.

Three of the speakers will discuss how different healthcare systems meet the needs of an evermore demanding public while dealing with increasing costs of health care within a tough economic climate.

They include healthcare economist Tomas Philipson, the Daniel Levin Professor of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago; Elinor Caplan, former Minister of Health for Ontario, Canada; and Jennifer Attride-Stirling, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Health Council.

Ms Caplan is the chief executive officer of Canada Strategies Inc. She has a vast experience within the healthcare sector in Canada and abroad via the World Health Organisation. While working for the Ontario Ministry of Health, Ms Caplan completed a review of home care procurement policy and practices, focusing on the quality of care and service provided. Her recommendations are now being implemented.

Ms Caplan will give a presentation on Canada’s healthcare system, which is largely publicly funded, with private insurance accounting for just a small part of the overall system. Healthcare costs in Canada are paid for by funding from income taxes, although British Columbia imposes a fixed monthly premium, which is waived or reduced for those on low income.

In each Canadian province, doctors handle insurance claims against the provincial insurer so there is no need for the patient to be involved in billing and reclaim. Everyone on the programme is issued a health card by the Provincial Ministry of Health and receives the same level of care. This means that widely varying plans are unnecessary because almost all essential care is covered, including maternity and infertility problems. The Canadian Government oversees the system to ensure that standards are being met, but it does not get involved in day-to-day care.

Bermuda’s healthcare system, on the other hand, is largely similar to Cayman’s with a mainly privately funded system, although there is also significant investment from the public sector. The country’s 40-year old health system is in the early stages of reform with a recently released national health plan being discussed, providing a reform strategy. The purpose of the plan is to contain the rate of increase in health costs, enable universal coverage and reduce health inequalities.

Ms Attride-Stirling, is the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Health Council and was the health promotion coordinator with Bermuda’s Department of Health. Ms Attride-Stirling has also worked for the regulatory body of the UK’s National Health Service. A specialist in the area of healthcare financing, she last year completed the Flagship Course on Health System Strengthening and Sustainable Financing from Harvard School of Public Health and World Bank. She will discuss how Bermuda’s healthcare service operates and the issues that it faces, in particular in relation to costs.

Mr. Philipson will round up the overseas perspective at the conference.

He is an associate member of the department of economics and a former senior lecturer at the law school. His research focuses on health economics and he teaches masters and PhD courses in microeconomics and health economics at the university.

It will be the task of Cayman’s decision-makers within the healthcare industry to ensure service providers deliver both quality and affordability within the system; not an easy task in today’s harsh economic climate. With such a breadth of knowledge on the agenda, the 20/20 Healthcare conference promises some thought-provoking discussion, which, it is anticipated, will help the country find the answers to these tough economic questions and ultimately help it on its path to healthcare reform

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