Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Universal health coverage plan must be inclusive: stakeholders

By By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

As the government strives to expand health insurance coverage to at least 50 per cent of all Tanzanians by 2020, the private sector wants the plan to be inclusive.

Currently, the health insurance coverage stands at about 30 per cent, the rest of the population relies on the cash payment system when they want to access health services. During the East African Health Federation Conference that ended yesterday in Dar es Salaam, a warning was sounded to the government not to rely solely on the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) in the efforts to achieve the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goal.

The patron of the Association of Private Health Facilities of Tanzania (APHFTA), Dr S.M.A Hashim, said that the government could achieve UHC if the public health insurance facility, the NHIF, joined hands with other private health insurers—and not exercising monopoly of customers.

“The plan to achieve this ambitious goal of expanding health insurance for all might collapse if the NHIF is exercising monopoly over the private health sector,’’ warned Dr Hashim.“How is the NHIF going to achieve all this alone?” he queried.

However, the director general of the NHIF, Mr Bernard Konga, assured the private sector that there was room for discussion on how the NHIF would partner with the private insurance stakeholders.

“The issue of monopoly is being taken care of. There are discussions going on at high levels of government and soon, NHIF will hold a meeting with all stakeholders to look into ways of dealing with it,’’ said Mr Konga.

He admitted that NHIF was now a major purchaser of health care services over 7,000 accredited health care facilities (Public and Private).

Health minister Ummy Mwalimu announced in Parliament early this year that all public servants must leave private health insurance companies and join the NHIF as part of the plan to expand the coverage of health insurance in the country.

Following that announcement, the chief executive officer of APHFTA, Dr Samwel Ogillo, told The Citizen if the decision was implemented, “The private health insurance companies in Tanzania will most likely go under. They will be negatively affected, financially.”