Thu, 04/14/2016 - 12:00am
Some weeks ago the Barbados Dental Association reiterated its call to Government to remove duties and taxes on all dental and medical equipment and supplies. This is a call we wholeheartedly support.
The reason for this is simple – high duties and taxes drive the cost of health care up to the public and we need to ensure that all Barbadians utilising the private health care sector can afford it, or else they will be forced to rely on the public health care services and put added burden on the already burdened systems. The fact is that while some Barbadians do have health insurance, many, many more pay out of pocket and with limited disposable income, one could argue that many are not receiving the care they require.
With that in mind, we want to take the call for a waiver on duties and taxes a step farther, urging the powers that be to give consideration to removing duties and taxes on healthy foods, in particular, those that are sugar and sodium free or contain reduced quantities of those ingredients, as well as fruits and vegetables. This is needed, we feel, because the Health of Nation Survey recently showed that only ten per cent of our adult population consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. If the duties and taxes on imported fruits and vegetables are removed, and perhaps value added tax also lowered on these commodities, more persons may be inclined to eat healthy.
Added to that, consideration should be given to removing duties and taxes on self-management health tools including blood glucose meters and testing strips, at home cholesterol tests and blood pressure monitors to reduce the cost to end users. The fact is that these tools are rather costly – one box of 50 strips could cost as much as $100 in some cases and the cholesterol test is almost $40 for one test.
Last year the Formulary Committee changed the rules such that patients receiving oral diabetic medication would receive a box of strips every 180 days and those on insulin would receive a box every 50 days. There was opposition to this in the form of 300 signatures submitted to the Ministry of Health, and it has been revised such that those on insulin will now receive one box every month free of cost and those on oral medication will receive one box every three months at no charge. We applaud this move, but believe that if these persons need to test twice a day in either case, one box will not suffice.
The fact is that approximately one in five adults aged 25 and over in this country has diabetes and the Health of Nation Survey suggests that as it relates to undetected diabetes among adults, the figures stand at one in 20. These statistics are startling and require that Barbadians take better care of their health. This can be achieved if tools to monitor their health are reasonably priced. If diabetics can better control their blood glucose, fewer would develop kidney disease and have to have their limbs amputated. Barbados could probably then get away from the label of being the amputation capital of the world, for it is not a badge of honour.
We also believe that every Barbadian household should own a blood pressure monitor. The fact is that one in three Barbadians has hypertension and one in two has raised cholesterol. Moreover, as it relates to undetected hypertension the figure stands at three in 20.
These chronic non-communicable diseases are also killing too many Barbadians on an annual basis and causing disabilities in many more. We must take action if we are to save lives.