Column: Reducing Health Care Costs In Bermuda

May 25, 2016

[Written by Dr Kuni Frith]

I was recently made aware of an article on how the Swiss government officially recognized five complementary alternative modalities as legitimate medicine to work in conjunction with allopathic or traditional Western medicine within their healthcare system.

The Swiss have taken a very bold and unbiased approach toward including acupuncture, herbal medicine, holistic medicine, homeopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine into the country’s compulsory health insurance coverage.

Swiss health authorities cited several reasons why they implemented CAM modalities but one of the most interesting points raised and I quote, “This shift toward integration will allow the Swiss healthcare system to heal, as it moves away from profiting off disease management.  With the inclusion of these five eclectic healing modalities, Swiss healthcare will become more affordable.  By legitimizing these true healing modalities, healthcare can compete to heal, empowering people instead of leaving them in an expensive cycle of side effects and negative outcomes.”

I began to think about our unsustainable health care system and the overwhelming costs passed onto many people who can barely afford insurance.  In 2008 under the PLP Government, the Bermuda Health Council invited practitioners of complementary alternative medicine to a discussion on how the country could implement CAM modalities into our own healthcare system.  A few meetings were held with staff of the Bermuda Health Council and local CAM practitioners with lots of dialogue and some great suggestions as to how such a strategy could benefit the people of Bermuda.

Several months passed and those of us who were invited to participate in the discussions heard nothing back from BHeC.  I remember asking what happened to all the information that was taken and when would we hear the outcome on how to implement CAM into the local healthcare system.

The response I received by one of the BHeC staff members was that everything had been put on the back burner in order to address more pressing issues within our healthcare system.  I could not help but wonder what could be more pressing than saving the country and its people money, along with giving people options when it comes to health care services.

The following statements from members of both political parties, indicates that thinking outside of the box is the only answer to the ongoing problem to Bermuda’s unsustainable health care system.

November 16, 2012, in a statement made to Bernews, Andrew Simons had this to say about Bermuda’s unsustainable health care system.  “We also believe Bermuda’s current health care system requires change.  And this change must be planned carefully in partnership with health care providers and private insurers.  We believe that radical reform like the Governments proposed National Health Plan, is unnecessary to achieve the goal of universal access to basic care, affordability fairness and sustainability.”

November 25, 2015, Bernews covered an interview with Shadow Health Minister Kim Wilsons’ reply to the 2015 Throne Speech.  Ms. Wilson outlines what the Opposition Government would do to implement alternative health initiatives. “What a PLP Government would do would be to legislate the requirement for insurance companies to provide further coverage for those types of traditional medicines that we are finding that there’s strong evidence to support that they are equally, if not more beneficial, in so far as treatments of various ailments that people are suffering from.”

“People are now deciding that they would like less invasive forms of treatment and they’re going towards alternative and complementary forms of medicine such as acupuncture and homeopathy and so forth.”

More on Ms. Wilson’s views regarding the use of Complementary Alternative Medicine can be found in the 2015/16 Session of the Bermuda House of Assembly Official Hansfard Report, November 20, 2015 pages 44 – 45.

In an article on January 16, 2016, Minister Jeanne Atherden has the following comments regarding our unsustainable health care system.  “So what is the Bermuda Health Strategy trying to achieve? Simply stated, it aims to achieve health reform.  It is resetting the dial to change the way we provide, pay for and use health services, so we get better quality and better value.  We all want and deserve that.”

I felt the need to bring these statements to light because in essence they are all a reflection of the position recently taken by the Swiss Government.  Acknowledging the efficacy, along with the cost effectiveness of Complementary Alternative Modalities in Bermuda has long been a challenge for both governments along with traditionally trained allopathic practitioners. The topic is passed around like a hot potato from the Health and Environment Ministry to the Chief Medical Officer on to the Bermuda Health Council and The Bermuda Hospitals Board.

It makes me wonder how serious are we about implementing change in our present health care system that is plagued with financial instability. Do we need to broaden our definition on the true meaning of healing by offering alternative therapies?  Perhaps we need to hear the people’s voice on whether or not they would like options such as CAM therapies to be a part of health care services covered by insurance in Bermuda.  Let me make it clear that this is not an attack on either political party or our health care providers in Bermuda.

Clearly this has been a topic worthy of discussion since 2008.  Here we are in 2016 and we are still talking about our broken health care system.  Is it time to take action?  It will be interesting to see who will lead the charge in the much needed healthcare reform in Bermuda by taking health and healing to the next level.

There are approximately 18 pharmacies in Bermuda not including pharmacies run by physicians and the Bermuda Hospitals Board.  Obviously sick people are big business but are we recycling an already out dated health care system struggling to find answers in an arena dominated by synthetic drugs, surgeries, repeat doctor and hospital visits and diagnostic testing.  My research has shown that there is only one private insurer offering some coverage for complementary alternative therapies.

The full article on the Swiss governments shift in health care legislation can be found on

- Kuni Frith ND 

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Comments (6)

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  1. Family Man says:

    It’s indeed true that the introduction of “alternative” medicine will reduce healthcare costs but that’s only because more patients die and no further costs are incurred in their treatment.

    There’s medicine, where therapies have been painstakingly proved to work or they’re not allowed, and then there’s the “alternative”; prayer, voodoo and the consulting of tea leaves and chicken bones. We may not be able to cure everything, but it’s a darn sight better than rhino horn and dried mushroom powder.

  2. hmmm says:

    Complementary alternative medicines….

    So you still have the traditional , but they are complemented by additional alternative remedies???!!! Surely that would increase the cost of healthcare.

    They would have to be replacements not complementary !!!!

  3. Sickofantz says:

    Cochrane reviews are the highest standard of research into all aspects of healthcare, again and again their rigorous trials have revealed that homeopathy is no more effective than Placebo. Perhaps Kuni Frith (what is she a doctor of?) would like to read the UK governments review of evidence on homeopathy.

    The Swiss report is biased, unscientific and embarrassing for the swiss government. If they want to learn how a proper country analyses evidence they should just read the one produced by the UK government.

    If Kuni frith believes that her methods work then I suggest that she accepts the challenge of the amazing Randi who for years has offered a million dollars to anyone who can prove in a blind trial that these healing methods work. A million dollars would help Bermuda’s healthcare budget. If Kuni Frith doesn’t take up this challenge then I suggest she writes her next column about why she wants to make money peddling false cures?

  4. rodney smith says:

    I can save Bermuda money, without providing alternative medicines, but just more efficiency. Waste is a big part of our problem. Too many test , too many procedures. All for what? Doctors and these test labs are making all the money. Do they get a % kicked back to them? We pay NEARLY $30,000 A MONTH TO KEEP A SENIOR IN A HOSPITAL BED , but only $ 5,000 per month , if that same person is in a nursing home.(smile). Bermuda at it’s best . AND NO ONE WANTS TO CHANGE THIS. The Good Old Boys are laughing all the way to the bank, while the people of Bermuda pay. The price of illegal drugs and legal drugs carry the same ( % ) mark up. Why?

  5. 10 percent project says:

    True preventative care is wholistic care. If I am paying for health insurance, I should be able to discuss with a primary care physician my preferences for treatment and determine what “type” of treatment would be the best solution.
    We live in the 21st century and are encouraged to think critically in regards to information presented to us. Why then, can’t we have alternative treatment options that are covered by insurance$
    What if I simply want to be cured instead of getting refills$
    Aren’t we here because those before us successfully used what we now consider “alternative” treatments$
    Why can’t we embrace our scientific and technological advances while using complementary treatments$

  6. Karen Simons says:

    American Hospital Association:
    —September 7
    , 2011— Hospitals across the nation are responding to patient
    demand and integrating complementary and alternative medicine(C AM) services with the conventional services they normally provide, according to the results of a new survey released today by Health Forum, a subsidiary of the Ameri
    can Hospital Association (AHA)and Samueli Institute, a non-
    profit research organization that investigates healing oriented practices. The survey shows that more than 42 percent of responding hospitals indicated they offer one or more CAM therapies, up from 37 percent in 2007. (AND MORE HOSPITALS ARE ON BOARD NOW)!

    “Children’s Memorial is just one of many academic hospitals where unconventional therapies have found a home. Elite centers like the Mayo Clinic, Duke University Medical Center, and the University of California-San Francisco now offer acupuncture, massage, and other CAM services. All 18 hospitals on U.S. News’s most recent “America’s Best Hospitals” superselective Honor Roll provide CAM of some type. Fifteen of the 18 also belong to the three-year-old Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, 36 U.S. teaching hospitals pushing to blend CAM with traditional care”.
    U.S. News Health

    We could go on and on. We are so behind. The fear of many of the doctors here is ridiculous. We will not put you out of business, don’t worry. We are here to help people with their health so that they can have choice and have the best health possible. End of story. It is time for Bermuda to get with the times and get serious about health and health prevention!
    Is that not what we should be focusing on?