Dar es Salaam. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) insists that the new health insurance packages which were launched at the end of last week aim at increasing healthcare coverage - especially for people who work in the private sector and the informal economy.
Speaking at an NHIF meeting with journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the NHIF director general, Mr Bernard Konga, said the newly introduced packages - namely ‘Najali,’ ‘Wekeza’ and ‘Timiza’ - will enable more people to access healthcare products and services as a matter of course. Hitherto, Mr Konga said, the health insurance scheme mainly covered workers in the formal economy. Under the new packages, membership fees are pegged at Sh192,000, Sh384, 000 and Sh516, 000, respectively for Tanzanians aged from 18 to 39 years.
“We introduced the new packages in order to increase health coverage to many people who works in private an informal sectors,” Mr Konga said, dismissing claims that NHIF have now decided to adopt a business model, thereby abandoning the service-based one. The Fund came under criticism from social media users as well as some organization like the Alliance for Democratic Change (ACT)-Wazalendo political party following the launching of the new schemes.
ACT-Wazalendo claimed that the NHIF sought to exploit people through the provision of basic services, and urged it to halt their implementation. but the director general played down the allegations. The ACT-Wazalendo further claimed that the insurance packages were aimed at creating social classes in accessing healthcare services.
In response, Mr Konga said “The government endorsed our proposals because we are targeting the majority of Tanzanians... The move is very important as we are heading toward universal health coverage.”
He added: “claims that we are sidelining some people who suffer from certain diseases don’t hold water because you can’t fund the treatment of a cancer patient who has contributed only Sh192,000 for a year.”
Since the launch of the new schemes last week, 700 people have been enrolled as new NHIF members.
Speaking during the meeting Mr Christopher Mapunda director of customer’s services at NHIF said that for the past three years NHIF expenditures for specialized treatment has increased from 15 spent to 20 per cent. According to him NHIF spent a total of Sh204.4 billion in 2015/16, Sh263.48 in 2016/17 and Sh371.11 billion in 2017/18.
For example Mr Mapunda said NHIF costs of cancer treatment has rose from Sh11.59 billion in 2015/16 to Sh30.66 billion in 2017/18.