Why universal health insurance coverage Bill has been delayed

The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Dorothy Gwajima, addressing a news conference in Dodoma yesterday during which she outlined assorted achievements in the Health sector in the past 60 years. PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT

Summary

  • The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Dorothy Gwajima, says the Bill will be tabled in Parliament “in the near future”

Dar es Salaam. The government yesterday said that the much-awaited Universal Health Insurance Coverage Bill was in the final preparation stages after going through all requisite processes.

The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Dorothy Gwajima, gave the assurance in Dodoma - and stressed that the bill would be tabled in Parliament “in the near future.”

Dr Gwajima was speaking on the bill after the government failed to table it in Parliament during the September 2021 session as earlier promised.

Also, the ministry had promised to table it for debate during the current session.

But, last week, the National Assembly Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai, challenged the government for failing to table the document - and directed the Social Services and Community Development Committee chairman, Mr Stanslaus Nyongo, to remind the ministry in this.

“Universal health insurance (UHI) coverage has now become a priority for citizens - thus making it significant for enactment of the law from which all Tanzanians can benefit,” he said.

But outlining the sector’s development after 60 years of independence yesterday, Dr Gwajima told a news conference that the bill will address the health insurance challenges which 85 percent of Tanzanians face.

“After stalling since 2012, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has come up with a speed that will soon make UHI a reality. Tanzanians should expect good news on the document anytime from now,” she promised.

Dr Gwajima also said that, after passing the ministerial stages, permanent secretaries, cabinet and the Parliamentary Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee, the bill was now being improved by a special taskforce.

“Unfortunately, the document cannot be tabled in the ongoing, tight-scheduled, Parliament. Tanzanians should be patient,” she said.

The minister said that Speaker Ndugai recently challenged the government for rushing bills though Parliament - and then coming up with miscellaneous amendments only a few years later.

Outlining the government’s achievements, Dr Gwajima said health centres have increased by 84.26 percent, to 8,537 from 1,343 on independence in 1961.

According to her, the country has 7,242 dispensaries, 926 health centres, 178 district hospitals, 151 private health institutions; 28 regional referral hospitals, six zonal hospitals, five specialized hospitals and one national hospital.

“The healthcare centres have 90,488 beds: 71,656 beds more compared to 1961. This is a 79.18 percent increase,” she said.

The bed-to-population ratio is currently 1:6,751.5 up from 1:40,000-50,000 before independence in 1961.

She further said that the bed-to-patient ratio is currently 1:637, from 1:1000 while registered practitioners (specialists, doctors, nurses, lab technicians, radiologists, pharmacists) have jumped to 71,375 from 435 at independence.

She said the under-five mortality rate over live births has declined to 50/1,000 from 112/1,000. The infant mortality rate had also decreased to 36/1,000 in 2020 from 94/1,000 in 1992.

“While deaths of expectant mothers have declined from 870/100,000 in 1990 to 321/100,000 in 2020; malaria prevalence declined by 50 percent to 7.5 percent in 2017. Malaria deaths have dropped from 6,311 in 2015 to 2,460 in 2020,” she said.

The country’s achievements are demonstrated by the rise in Tanzanians’ life expectancy to 66 years, from 36 years at independence.”

In a more or less similar development, the Health Minister said that the number of women appointed for ministerial roles has increased to seven, up from only one at independence. Also, the number of female MPs increased to 145 in 2020, up from 127 in 2017, according to her.

During this period despite Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan becoming the first woman President, Anne Makinda and Dr Tulia Ackson became National Assembly Speaker and Deputy respectively.

Ms Getrude Mongella, Prof Anna Tibaijuka, Dr Asha Rose Migiro and Dr Stergomena Tax successfully served different global bodies, according to her.