ZIMBABWE’S two main political parties, ZANU PF and the MDC Alliance have vowed to cleanse the Medical Aid services sector soon after the elections amidst growing concerns that the firms are engaging in double dipping tendencies with most players reportedly running private clinics, pharmacies and other services outside their operating regulatory framework.
By Michael Gwarisa
The industry is facing a plethora of problems, chief among them the high cost of medical services, which has excluded the majority of the people. The industry has elevated the more expensive secondary care and neglected primary care, which is key to a healthy nation.
The situation according to political parties representatives who participated at the Political Dialogue on Health Policy Proposals organised by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), has impoverished medical aid services users as they have to folk out exorbitant monies for ordinary health services.
Pathologist in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) Dr Maxwell Hove, who spoke representing ZANU PF said there was a bill already being worked on which will upon finalisation and gazetting would whip medical aid players into line.
“The issue of the Medical Aid Society Regulatory Authority (MASRA) is currently being worked on. I think that’s what is being referred to as double dipping that the medical aid societies are on one side the funder providing health care financing but on the other side they are the same health care provider which is a contradiction and they have a conflict of interest.
“As if that was not enough, they will even employ some of the doctors to run those clinics and health institutions. Yes you see the law making process goes through stages and sometimes it gets caught up and right as i speak, the Medical Aid Society Regulatory Authority is with the Attorney General (AG) undergoing all the redrafting processes. If the parliament expires on the 29 July we have to start all over again, but at least we have a framework, it is there and I can assure if ZANU PF was guaranteed to come into power, we can assure you that this piece of legislation will proceed,” said Dr Hove.
Medical aid services are currently beyond reach of many despite indications that international best practice showing that medical insurance costs cannot go beyond 10 percent of one’s earnings. In Zimbabwe, the average salary is $300, so it stands to reason that there is need for a realignment of the current tariffs and the reality on the ground.
Fomer health minister, Dr Henry Madzorera who was representing the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC Alliance) said there was need to separate the funder from the provider of health services in order to bring sanity in the medical aid industry.
“The issue of double dipping is killing the health industry, it is killing people, I know under the then Chief Executive officer of PISMAS, we had literal bonding of healthcare practitioners.
“This kills innovation and also kills the industry, we must separate the funder from the provider of services , that should be done,” said Dr Madzorera.
Zimbabwe’s health costs are more than twice that of regional rivals South Africa and Zambia and Asian giant India, according to available data.
In 2015, the Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) — which has a membership of 27 medical insurance companies — said membership for medical aid firms fell 31 percent to 400,000 in the previous year. AHFoZ still collected $400 million in subscriptions, which was all swallowed up by the high costs of service. With the deteriorating economic situation, these numbers declined further last year.