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Health insurance scheme good building block

THE National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is slowly gaining momentum after the initial resistance from some stakeholders.
That the scheme has over 460,000 contributors from the civil service, private and informal sectors is commendable.
For a long time now, Government bore the brunt of providing health care to its citizens. But times have changed, just like the population of the country has increased.
Government is alive to its obligation of providing quality health services to its citizens, hence the construction and upgrading of health facilities across the country at a huge cost to the treasury.
The health insurance scheme is, therefore, an initiative by Government for cost sharing of the medical bills with people who are in formal employment to ensure that issues of drug stock-outs which have been the norm are a thing of the past.
Through the robust health insurance scheme, it is Government’s desire to ensure it is in tune with the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
UHC is a global health policy agenda that has been adopted as one of the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three designed to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.
Under the World Health Organisation, the public health promotion goals aim to provide universal coverage. To achieve this, governments have to design mechanisms to ensure attainment of this goal. They have to break down barriers to access health services, one of them being the cost of health services.
To address the issue of cost, governments around the world either pay on behalf of citizens through taxes or citizens pay directly for these services.
Another way is the health insurance scheme run by a government to which citizens contribute a smaller amount of money.
This scheme, like the NHIS, has proved effective in most countries as most people find it affordable. Consequently, more people will seek health care services in designated health facilities as opposed to self-medication because the scheme ensures access.
The provision of quality essential health care services is one of the pillars of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), which runs from 2017 to 2021.
Government knows that to attain UHC is not a walk in the park.
It requires huge financial resources which Government alone cannot meet and it wants partnership with the willing citizens and corporate world to make UHC a dream come true.
NHIS, therefore, represents a smart investment for Zambia because it is a predictable and sustainable health care financing mechanism.
It will assist in ensuring sustainable, predictable and dedicated financing for the health sector whilst at the same time providing financial risk protection for our citizenry.
Citizens and the corporate world should, therefore, buy into the NHIS because it represents the Ministry of Health’s transformational agenda designed to transform the landscape of quality health provision in the country.
The initial resistance to the NHIS is understandable as Zambia’s tax base is really thin as taxes keep being added to the same few people who are in formal employment.
The 460,000 contributors could be the same people being taxed for everything else.
For instance, the four percent access to health services was low. Even 20 percent is way too low, but since the country is starting from a very low base, it is a massive achievement.
Government should emulate Kenya, where they are now collecting contributions from the informal sector.
Zambia’s population is around 17 million. There is need to get the informal sector on board.