The Daily Herald writes that Socialist Party (SP), together with the Saba Labour Party (SLP), is questioning the move by Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers to partly remove physical therapy from the health insurance package in the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba per January 1, 2015. Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak (SP) submitted written questions on Monday to seek clarity from the minister in a joint initiative with SLP Island Council Member Ishmael Levenstone.
The end date for the transitional regulation in the health care package, January 1, 2015, is approaching. About a year ago Schippers approved transitional measures that should aid in curbing the increasing health care cost in the islands. Initially the minister had planned to remove physical therapy and dental care from the health care package per July 1, 2013. The minister agreed to extend the transitional regulation to January 1, 2015, after consultation with the public entities, which came up with a cost-saving alternative to the tune of US $1.5 million. Schippers agreed with the islands’ proposal as long as it indeed had a cost-saving effect on dental care and physical therapy of at least one million euros in 2013.
January 1, 2015, was marked as the end date because, as Schippers put it, this would provide enough time for citizens on the islands to catch up on dental care and to build up the rehabilitation care from the local hospitals where it came to physical therapy.
Member of Parliament (MP) Van Raak asked Schippers whether it was correct that per January 1, 2015, people on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba would have to pay for their first 20 treatments at the physical therapist, just as clients have to do in the European part of the Netherlands. “Do you share my concern that physical therapy will become unaffordable for many people per January 1, 2015, especially considering the fact that a large part of the population lives below the poverty level?” asked Van Raak. He pointed out that because of the unequal social-economic situation on the islands in comparison to the European part of the Netherlands the Kingdom Charter stated that rules and regulations could deviate when this was required due to the local situation. “So why do you then persist in taking these measures?”
Van Raak further wanted to know whether the minister shared his concerns that after January 1, 2015, only one third of the work of physical therapists would remain and that as a result physical therapy might become unavailable on the islands in due time. He called it “irresponsible” to largely remove physical therapy from the health care package. “Physical therapy is important prevention-wise. It can happen that people get sick and require expensive care. The minister’s decision is foolish and short-sighted. It will not only increase the cost of health care for the people on Bonaire and St. Eustatius, but also ultimately for the Dutch Government. This is a short-sighted policy that doesn’t take the special circumstances of the people into consideration,” Van Raak stated in an additional comment.