The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says it rejects Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ proposal that the state pay for “reasonable” medical expenses for Members of Parliament.
The party said on Sunday that it will release a statement detailing its position on the proposal, which Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, announced in Parliament last week.
“I want to give this House the assurance that any member of this Honourable House, present or past, who has any problems with their health and have to seek medical attention and do not have any private insurance and incur expenses, that, as Minister of Finance, I will authorise a reimbursement for all reasonable expenses for health,” Gonsalves said.
He was speaking moments after MP for Central Kingstown St. Clair Leacock, an opposition lawmaker, told parliament he has received treatment in Barbados and is recovered from eye problem.
Leacock told Parliament that he used his December salary to pay for retinal surgery.
Speaking shortly after Leacock, Gonsalves noted that Parliamentarians do not have medical insurance, even as many firms in Kingstown provide such insurance for their employees.
He said medical insurance for Parliamentarians was discussed under both the Unity labour Party and NDP administrations, but the talks “got nowhere”.
Gonsalves said he has “very quietly, with no publicity whatsoever” paid medical bills of some past MPs and their families.
“Why can’t we, the state and the parliamentarians here, have a private insurance system?” he said.
He said this has not been done because some MPs are afraid that citizens will accuse them of looking out for themselves specially.
“Well, some people will say that, but I am satisfied that the vast majority of people will say that it is a useful thing to do for us to have a contributory health insurance system,” Gonsalves said.