Concern Over Low Health Insurance Uptake

PARLIAMENTARIANS are worried over the low coverage of Zimbabweans by medical aid companies which stands at 10 percent while almost everyone in the country has a funeral insurance.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

Speaking during a Health Portfolio Committee meeting with the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe, Matebeleland North Member of Parliament Dr Ruth Labode said the association could take a leaf from Rwanda’s appealing NHI model.

“I am really surprised that about 29 medical aids cover only 1, 3 million in Zimbabwe. You know I saw somewhere that you are having a conference in Vic Falls. I think its important for you to invite somebody from Rwanda,” she said.

She explained the Rwandese NHI model.

“Rwanda has a fantastic national health insurance policy. And it works this way. Everybody is in the database. And everybody even in the village are graded in four. If you are graded at four it means you are a villager. You pay $3 per annum. If you have five children, that is three times five a year. And that $3 gets you an MRI scan if you want, when that time reaches. Why? Because the grade 1 who is probably paying over USD500 to a private insurer, the insurer then sends money to government as a subsidy for the villager. We need to listen to other people that have done skills that work. We won’t just sit and think we are better than others. We are not. I know we have done meetings with Great Britain. Go and pick people who are closer to you who have done it. That is very very important,” added the parliamentarian.

She also asked about the obtaining trend where the uptake of funeral policies was more compared to health insurance.

“Why is it that Zimbabweans find it attractive to pay funeral policy than to pay for their health insurance? Is it important to be buried nicely? Because if you ask, almost every Zimbabwean is paying some kind of funeral policy,” said Dr Labode.

On the issue of the 10 percent coverage, AHFoZ board member Mr Keith Nkomo said it was about the affordability of healthcare that has seen them coverage that number.

“The other issue is covering 10 percent of the population. I think it’s an issue we have been battling with over time but I think it speaks to the cost of health care in the country. It speaks to affordability of citizens themselves. And we find ourselves covering only ten percent.

He said the issue of patients defaulting payment also comes into play thus making healthcare services a preserve and privilege for the rich.

“We introduced informal products across the society that are as low as three dollars, as low as six dollars as the chairman said but it’s the ability of member to continue paying for this over time.

“Where medical has now been relegated to a luxurious component chair. It’s a sorry state. It’s no longer a right but probably a luxurious kind of procedure,” said Mr Nkomo.

Responding to the high uptake of funeral insurance products compared, Mr Nkomo said communities and individuals had culturally taken it upon themselves to have these burial societies while relying on government’s provision healthcare services.

“Honorable chair and honorable members I think it’s a question of culture that we have particularly the citizens who also look up to the government to provide basic services that include healthcare. “Having said that, if we are to compare with funeral insurance, throughout it has been an individual or community led benefit, where we had burial societies back in the day, they are still there but you still get buried. But when it comes to health, citizens have looked up to government where when you look at the attractiveness and being compelled sometimes government has to take steps to ensure that citizens are covered,” he said.

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