National Health Insurance ready by July

By Kuda Pembere

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora says the much-awaited and much-lobbied- for National Health Insurance (NHI) is expected to be rolled out in July this year.

At a time where less than 10 percent of Zimbabweans have medical insurance, the Health Ministry have been mulling over this health insurance scheme for decades without ever materializing.

In an interview, the Health Minister said the NHI is expected to be presented to Parliament anytime from now.

I think quite a lot of work has been done and I can assure you by July this year, we hope by July this year we should have it in place because everything is now in place, paperwork has been done and we are going to be presenting it in Parliament anytime soon. Anytime soon,” Dr Mombeshora said.

Dr Mombeshora added that it will be similar to medical aid schemes where people make monthly contributions.

“It’s not the Ministry of Finance providing funds. There are suggestions of where you take the funds from. It’s not like a budget line to say, there is the money.
“But it’s like if you are using taxes to collect. It’s continuous collection. It’s like medical aid, people contribute every month. It’s not like a one-time budget where you say we have got ZW$200 million and you put it there,” he said.

Dr Mombeshora was last year quoted as saying, “We have already done the groundwork and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion is chairing the committee to come up with ways to get the funding for this National Health Insurance.

“National Health Insurance is supposed to ensure that every Zimbabwean can access health services at any public health institution in the country. We know that some individuals have cash and can afford private health services, but that should be optional.

“Government must ensure that health services are accessible to every citizen. We hope that by the end of this year, I would have tabled the Bill before Parliament,” he said.

“Ideally, the National Health Insurance scheme seeks to ensure that health services are accessible to all citizens, pursuant to Section 76 of the Constitution, which stipulates that ‘every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic healthcare services’.”

An NHI is regarded as one of the best routes to achieving Universal Health Coverage as medical care will be made accessible and affordable to general folk.
According to Health economist Dr Prosper Chitambara, no country has made significant progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) without relying on a dominant share of public funds to finance health.

“Inasmuch as there may be a projected increase to US$40 from last year’s US$20, Zimbabwe’s projections for per capita expenditure are still low in contrast to what other lower middle income countries are spending.

“On the other hand, health spending per capita was US$119 in lower-middle income countries and US$472 in upper-middle income countries. Most of the countries with low health spending were in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, while most of the countries with high health spending were in Europe, North America and East Asia.

“The WHO estimates that an additional US$ 41 per person per year in health spending, on average, is needed in low and middle income countries to make progress towards the health targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 by 2030.

“This implies more than doubling current health spending in low-income countries and a 34 percent increase in lower-middle income countries.

“Health spending relative to the size of the overall economy (GDP) also varied across income groups. For example, health spending as a percentage of GDP in 2019 ranged from 4.9 percent on average in lower-middle income countries to 8.2percent in high income countries,” Dr Chitambara said.

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