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By Latrishka Thomas

In an effort to improve the “health and wellness” of residents, the government has undertaken to offer one free medical check-up per year to contributors of the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS).

Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph said that due to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) the government cannot wait until the proposed National Health Insurance is developed in totality.

Hence, within the next month, the government will be seeking to amend the existing legislation to make it possible for residents to get a health assessment free of charge.

“There has been, unfortunately, a rapid increase in the number of individuals with NCDs in Antigua and Barbuda and the most glaring evidence is the number of people coming down with kidney failure,” he said

“The Cabinet has decided — as we wait for the National Health Insurance — to accelerate our fight against NCDs by amending the Medical Benefits Act to include an additional benefit to the people of Antigua and Barbuda and that benefit is to require the medical benefits, through its legislation, to make available to every member the opportunity to have an annual check-up that will be financed by medical benefits.”

He also revealed that his ministry will be increasing the existing tax on unhealthy foods, “primarily foods with high salt content, sugars and starch and the Ministry will be, within a relatively short time, making recommendations as to the type of legislation that will be taken to parliament”.

Joseph also said the Ministry of Health now has the task of expanding the dialysis unit at Mount St John’s Medical Centre, to include 10 additional machines in the next 90 days.

The National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP), which is currently in the works, was to be rolled out this year.

It will be a hybrid of the MBS, expanded to cover secondary health care for all.

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