Monday July 7 2014

Legislation on health insurance is long overdue

By Lou Jarvis Owen

Health insurance is attracting more attention in low- and middle-income countries as a means for improving health care and protecting households against impoverishment from out-of-pocket expenditure.

Experts have pointed out that Ugandans spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on healthcare. This hard reality makes fighting poverty even harder hence pushing Ugandans deeper into poverty.

It is, however, paramount to note that Uganda has not been left out of the global trend of health insurance to mitigate the ills of out of pocket expenditure. One of the Bills the government is planning to introduce in Parliament this financial year concerns setting up a national health insurance scheme for all citizenry.

This Bill is long overdue. The Bill if passed into law will definitely not be a panacea to solve all health shortcomings but will certainly spring forth many benefits such as generate sufficient and stable resources for adequate functioning of health services, provide financial protection to clients against catastrophic health expenditures, improve utilisation of health-care services by all socioeconomic groups, improve health care quality, etc.

It is, however, this writer’s hope that this move which the minister of Health was quoted in sections of the media to say that the President is willing to support should not remain rhetoric as the custom has become in Uganda.

People should be left to choose their medical insurance provider. The field should be levelled and open to allow competition amongst health insurance providers while equally not letting fake providers on the market to fleece Ugandans in the name of giving cheaper insurance policies. The government should set stringent measures for people planning to enter the market to offer health insurance.

Finally, the corruption bug should not be allowed to rear its ugly head. It is a common sight to have people prosecuted for either swindling money meant for health programmes, sell of government drugs. This insurance is to deal with the essence of people’s lives and wellbeing. A whip should hence be cracked on whoever attempts to divert hard earned resources which the people will choose to invest in health insurance.