By Michael Gwarisa
PUBLIC consultations to the Medical Aid Societies Bill have commenced amid indications that the new law could usher in provisions that could completely change the medical aid societies sector’s operations.
Briefing medical practitioners and members of various medical aid societies during the Medical Aid public consultative meeting this morning, Pathologist in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Maxwell Hove said the proposed bill was meant plug leakages and loopholes that currently exist under the current Statutory Instrument.
“If you look closely, you see that there are a number of issues that are missing from the current legal framework guiding medical aid societies. There are issues to do with governance and administration that are not currently very clear. Our statutory instrument that we have at the moment has a gap in that respect.
“You all recall very well the PSMAS challenges that we had a few years back, those were partly to do with the issues of governance. In the SI that we have, in some cases it actually legalizes the conflicts of interests that most people have been complaining about, you go to Section 14 of the current SI, parties are allowed to violate practices and still get reprieve afterwards and they continue operating, so those are the issues that we need to plug,” said Hove.
Zimbabwe’s Medical Aid sector is currently being governed by the Medical Services Act -Medical Services (Medical Aid Societies) Regulations,2000-SI 330 of 2000 and SI 35 of 2004 (Amendment)- unfair practice.
Dr Hove also spoke on the issue of reimbursements which he says in it was still a challenge to process reimbursements as it currently takes longer than a month to process one in Zimbabwe as compared to other neighboring countries.
“Under the current SI, there is no contractual agreement between service providers and medical aid societies. That makes life very difficult for the two parties. In our case its just a lady or gentleman agreement’s where we just sit down and agree on the payment method.
“The card, you don’t know whether its a valid card or not and some cases, medical aid cards are being rejected. These are some issues we need to address in the new law,” said Dr Hove.
Meanwhile, Permanent secretary in the ministry of health Brig Gerald Gwinji said the consultation process on the proposed bill will encompass all stakeholders in the health sector including insurers.
“In the interim,the consultations are still going on, consulting you today does not mean the end of the consultations. The details of how these processes will move will be given by the Attorney General (AG), but in brief, after the stakeholders meeting and final incorporation, the draft bill will then be taken to the cabinet committee on legislation.
“This committee, if satisfied will take it to cabinet before it goes to parliament,” said Dr Gwinji.