National Health Care Spending in Trinidad and Tobago
May, 23rd, 2011
National health care spending in Trinidad and Tobago
“One of the most important questions facing health care economists and policy-makers in general is, how much of a nation’s wealth should be devoted to health care. One problem that plagues any attempt to address national health care policy is the time it takes for health care spending to respond to major economic changes, such as a drop in gross domestic product (GDP) or inflation. Policy makers attempt to control costs by imposing regulations on the health care system, but because of the slow pace of ...view middle of the document...
Trinidad and Tobago (T&T)
Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean parliamentary democracy and former British colony, became independent in 1962. In May 2010, Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her People’s Partnership coalition won 29 of 41 seats in parliament, ousting a government weakened by soaring crime and allegations of public corruption. Robust foreign investment since 1990 has made Trinidad and Tobago the Western Hemisphere’s largest supplier of liquefied natural gas and one of CARICOM’s largest and most industrialized economies. Its economy has doubled in size since 2002, with hydrocarbons accounting for more than 45 percent of GDP in 2008. However, the rate of growth slowed substantially in 2009–2010.
T&T’s health care system
Trinidad and Tobago operates under a two-tier health care system. That is, there is the existence of both private health care facilities and public health care facilities. The Ministry of Health is responsible for leading the health sector. Responsibility for the provision of health care services in Trinidad and Tobago was devolved from the Ministry of Health to five Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) with the passing of the Regional Health Authorities Act No. 5 in 1994. The Ministry allocates resources to the RHAs (four in Trinidad and one in Tobago) to finance their operations. Citizens can access free health care at public health care facilities where health insurance is not required. However, the government is developing the National Health Service in which a package of services is to be determined, as well as a financing strategy. Public health care is free to everyone in Trinidad and Tobago and is paid for by the Government and taxpayers. Recently, the government launched the Chronic Disease Assistance Program (CDAP), which provides all citizens with free prescription drugs and other pharmaceutical items, available in more than 250 pharmacies throughout the country, to combat a variety of health conditions. “Trinidad and Tobago has moderate taxes. The top income tax rate and the standard corporate tax rate are 25 percent. Petroleum company profits are taxed at up to 50 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax (VAT), a motor vehicle tax, a property tax, and a health surcharge. In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP declined significantly to 19.4 percent” (Index of Economic Freedom, 2011). Health care services are offered on a walk-in basis. There are five major hospitals throughout the country as well as smaller health centres and District Health Facilities located regionally throughout.
Health care expenditures in T&T
The global economic crisis has been felt in Trinidad and Tobago, evidenced by shrinking income, international funding and remittances; increased unemployment; and the review of social programmes. The economic crisis is a threat to health care in several ways. In particular, there is reduced funding for health care infrastructure and...