Wednesday November 13 2013

National health insurance scheme to start next year

National health insurance scheme to start next year

Patients crowd the corridors at Mulago hospital. The new health insurance scheme is likely to offer more Ugandans an opportunity for affordable health care. File Photo. 

By Stephen Otage

Absence of a law on health insurance has delayed the operationalisation of the national health insurance scheme, Dr Francis Runumi, the chairperson of the national task force, has revealed.

But in an exclusive interview last week, Dr Runumi, who doubles as the commissioner for planning at the Ministry of Health, said because of the growing demand from both Parliament and Cabinet for the draft Bill, he is convinced the scheme could be implemented in less than six months.

“Parliament and cabinet have been so supportive. The Speaker of Parliament has been demanding for the Bill to be passed. Even in Cabinet where I have been twice, minister Ruhakana Rugunda is demanding for it,” he intimated to this newspaper.

He added that the task force demonstrated to employers the benefits of the scheme and they were convinced that with a healthy workforce, they would actually be saving rather than driving the costs of business through the roof.

This is because the scheme will motivate workers, attract investors in the sector as well as skills, knowledge and technology, which are currently concentrated in Nairobi and South Africa.

“Even you, when your family member falls sick, you will be forced to abandon work to run round and look for money to treat them but we demonstrated to them how making that contribution will be making them a saving,” he said.

He explained that under the proposed scheme, both the employer and employee are expected to contribute 4 per cent towards the scheme because studies have revealed that employees spend 22 per cent of their income on healthcare.

With the scheme, both will make a significant saving of 14 per cent and this will attract investments in the sector because the investors will be sure about payments, forcing the government hospitals which are currently run badly to ‘style up’ if they want to benefit from the scheme.

“Currently, the good skills, gadgets and knowledge are in South Africa and Nairobi because in Uganda when you put up such facilities, people cannot pay. But when you have health insurance, then you have clients and it is a sure way of paying so you will have the private health sector burgeoning and the government health facilities which are not doing well today, styling up,” he said.

Poor health system
Uganda has been grappling with a poorly run national health care system which led to the establishment of private health care facilities which are unaffordable to ordinary citizens.

Even as the scheme is rolled out, it still remains a grey area in the country.

Actuarial studies which have been conducted show that employers need to contribute 8 per cent of the workers’ salary.

The employee contributes 4 per cent and the employer contributes 4 per cent which will go to a pool fund managed by an independent manager like NSSF.

sotage@ug.nationmedia.com

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