The Importance of the National Health Insurance Program
In early 2022, the Briceno Administration announced plans to expand the National Health Insurance (NHI) to other parts of the country. NHI which provides for general primary healthcare services that do not require an in-hospital stay, started in 2001 as a pilot project in the southern part of the Old Capital. By 2006, the service was expanded into the southern Districts and in 2013, it was further expanded to include Corozal Town. The government later announced that the NHI would be made available to the residents of the Orange Walk District. Chairman of the NHI Dr Marco Tulio Mendez explained how rolling out the program has been in the Orange Walk District. ..
Dr.Marco Tulio Mendez, Chairman, NHI: “Yes the NHI has roll out from many years ago to Belize City, to the southern part of the country also to Toledo, to Stann Creek and also to Corozal but now it’s expanding into Orange Walk so we’re still in that phase where we’re organizing. We hope that by after April/May we will be able to roll out over there.”
Reporter: What’s the target population in the Orange Walk district or is it only the town ?
Dr.Marco Tulio Mendez, Chairman, NHI: “No it’s the entire district. It’s a population of more or less about 50,000 so it is going to require lots of details in organizing the poly clinics and their location and also the groups of doctors that will be providing the services. What qualifies basically is Social Security and that you live in that area. Once you live in that area, you register and you register the entire family you are able to gain access to the NHI so all the people in Orange Walk will be able to be in the program.”
Reporter: Okay so it doesn’t matter the income that a person or a family receives annually ?
Dr.Marco Tulio Mendez, Chairman, NHI: “No. That’s why the NHI is trying to see that primary healthcare is accessible to everybody and that it provides quality health services and that we have the coverage for the entire population universal health coverage.”
Dr Mendez explained that since the program was first launched in Belize City, thousands of persons have benefitted.
Dr.Marco Tulio Mendez, Chairman, NHI: “It was determined no that time that this was the area that where we had more poverty, where we had more necessity in healthcare so that is why it was rolled out to this area as a pilot project but then it has been covering the entire south side. We’re thinking that after rolling out from Orange Walk it will continue rolling out to the other parts of the country and the northern part of Belize City.”
Reporter: How many people in Belize City have been using NHI ?
Dr.Marco Tulio Mendez, Chairman, NHI: “Right now each of the poly clinics have 16,000 and there are four of them so that is 48,000 and we have the Mercy Clinic that attends to the elderly which has a population more or less of about 4,000.”
Reporter: Okay so in terms of demarcation and the geography of the southern part of Belize City because you see like I live on the Western Highway apparently that is considered north side but the street behind me Fabers is considered south side. How does that work in terms of how do you determine what is south side and north side ?
Dr.Marco Tulio Mendez, Chairman, NHI: “Well the entire south side basically is the river that is the one that determines that south side of Belize City. Yes Mercy Clinic is on the north side but that is a special program that is being carried out for the elderly. “