Zimbabwe: Health Insurance Scheme Voluntary

Zimbabwe: Health Insurance Scheme Voluntary

The proposed National Health Insurance Scheme will now be voluntary to all Zimbabweans and its implementation is expected to take off soon, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira has said. Initial proposals were that the scheme would be compulsory to all working Zimbabweans who would contribute towards it through a defined tax.

Speaking on the sidelines of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) administered rehabilitation centre's open day in Bulawayo recently, Minister Mupfumira said she would be presenting the paperwork for the scheme to Cabinet in a fortnight."We are in the final processes of drafting the Bill and I will be taking the documents to Cabinet within the next two weeks," said Minister Mupfumira.

She downplayed criticism by some sections of the society that Zimbabweans were not ready for another tax saying this scheme would not be compulsory and would assist the majority of Zimbabweans who were not covered by any medical insurance.

Minister Mupfumira said those who were advocating against the NHIS were detractors, who did not want to see Government providing accessible healthcare to the people."No one should dictate to us our readiness for NHIS, in fact it is our responsibility as Government to ensure that our population, particularly the disadvantaged are covered in case of sickness," said Minister Mupfumira. She said the scheme's membership would be drawn from all sectors of society including people from the informal sector and those in rural areas.

Minister Mupfumira said the country was therefore, ready to start the insurance scheme, which was expected to start running before the end of the year. "Medical aid only covers 10 percent of our population and it is honestly not fair to continue denying medical insurance to the rest of our people, who are not covered by these private insurers", she said.

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She said many Zimbabweans were failing to access healthcare even in public health institutions due to costs associated with the services and the scheme was meant to address exactly that. Apex Council member Mr David Dzatsunga, said the NHIS was the way to go provided there were no additional deductions on employees' salaries. "The last time we spoke with Government they assured us that there will not be any deductions on employees' salaries which are already overtaxed," said Mr Dzatsunga.

He said it was, however, never clear how the fund was going to be resourced in the absence of a tax. Mr Dzatsunga said employees didn't want another Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) issue where their salaries would be deducted but nothing remitted to the medical aid, thereby compromising effective delivery of services. "Majority of civil servants are on PSMAS and it already have documented problems some of which include non remittance of contributions by the employer to the society resulting in members failing to access medical care, when it is needed," he said.

Plans to establish the NHIS was mooted in 2007 but was facing various challenges with workers arguing that the country was not yet ready for such as scheme. Meanwhile, Minister Mupfumira said the NHIS was one initiative her ministry was working on to improve the wellbeing of financially disadvantaged Zimbabweans, including those in the informal sector and pensioners. She said her ministry was also expecting to have completed the process of determining the sustainability of increasing pensioners contributions from a paltry $60 to not less than $100 by the end of September. Minister Mupfumira said Government had also increased funeral benefits for pensioners from $300 to $500.

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"For members who already have their funeral policies, we are giving them a payout of $500 and these changes were effected since April 1, 2017," she said. She said Government was doing all it could to improve the livelihoods pensioners and financially disadvantaged members of the community.

Source: The Herald