'Scandalous and discriminatory'

Advocates call for restructuring of insurance policy for pregnant women

Monday, April 16, 2018

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WOMEN'S rights advocates have renewed the call for insurance companies to restructure the way in which coverage for pregnant women are handled.

As it stands, pregnant women have to pay out of pocket for prenatal care and then submit a claim form to their insurance provider for a refund.

But, according to Professor Wendel Abel — lead investigator for the Partnership for the Promotion of Patients' Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health in Jamaica project and head of The University of the West Indies' Department of Community Health and Psychiatry — given the challenges in terms of maternal deaths in Jamaica, “this requirement by many insurance companies is clearly scandalous and discriminatory against women”.

“It denies many women access to critical health care during pregnancy and it's obviously something that must be addressed. The policymakers must intend to dialogue with the various companies. Women and the wider society must affirm their rights and it is something that must be urgently addressed,” Abel said.

He was addressing reporters and editors at last week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, where he and a panel of health care providers at different levels discussed 'Human Rights in Patients' Care' with a focus on maternal and child health in Jamaica.

Abel is part of a local project funded by the European Union which forms one component of the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC).

Among its aims are the building of capacity of civil society to advocate better maternal and child health outcomes in Jamaica, enhancing public participation in health care policy planning and monitoring, and advancing the human rights approach in the delivery of care to mothers and children.

Locally, the leading risk factors and causes of maternal deaths in Jamaica include having children over the age of 35, having five or more children and being obese. The main causes of maternal deaths are pregnancy-related hypertension, obstetric haemorrhage, unsafe abortion, and heart disease or stroke.

But another issue is women who do not receive antenatal care early, either because they cannot afford to do so or are not aware that it can be freely accessed.

Linnette Vassell, advocacy specialist at the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre further stated that they have started a conversation by making contact with two of the major providers.

“We need to do the research. I know that health insurance is a big business. We want to talk to women who have had the experience. That's where we are. We are designing a small questionnaire to talk to women and then to the health providers. It's an important part of the initiative because it's a conversation with the private sector and in trying to build a partnership to address maternal and neonatal health we feel its important to not only focus with civil society and the Ministry of Health but also with the private sector,” Vassell said.

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