Dar es Salaam. The government through the Ministry of Health has assured the general public of the mandatory Universal Health Insurance (UHI), saying that considerable efforts have been made for its sustainability.
Speaking here, Mrs Janeth Kibambe, an economist at the Ministry of Health, told the press that it took about six years to learn from the existing National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and overseas.
“The government brought this, to respond to the call to provide equitable and decent health care for all, in fact; The process started in 2016, we have not only learned from the challenges from the NHIF, but also from other countries that have established sustainable UHI,” he observed.
Adding that: “In addition to the claims of service providers arising from cases related to non-communicable diseases, other challenges that NHIF was facing included the effect of old-age pensions on the utilization of care health, since the Fund spends more than 60 billion Shri a year on them, but still. had very limited subscribers.”
According to her, only 15 percent of the country’s population has subscribed to health insurance of which 9 percent are covered by NHIF.
“So you can see, the pool was very limited, but with the UHI, NHIF will have more core members and will be regulated by the Tanzania Insurance Regulatory Authority (Tira), so things will not be the same.” she noticed.
The health economist also explained that, the current health insurance system did not provide equitable health care packages since each company had its own, but with the proposed UHI, the primary bundle will be uniform regardless from their financial capabilities, so insurance companies are challenged to compete.
“UHI will also strengthen the country’s referral system as currently, one can decide which hospital to access the health service, many prefer Muhimbili, but with UHI, we must follow the correct procedure until ch He/she arrives at the Muhimbili hospital. she said.
For his part, the director of policy and planning at the Ministry of Health, Edward Mbaga, said the proposed UHI Act would require 85 percent of the country’s population to dig into their pockets to pay health services.
He said that the UHI would be mandatory, saying however that no one will be arrested for lack of health insurance, since the government will create a system by which everyone will see the need to subscribe with health insurance of his choice.
According to him, it was the responsibility of every government to ensure that its people are healthy, saying that the UHI was meant to serve this purpose.
In addition, he said that the proposed Act also provided exemptions for the elderly, a strategy adopted to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC) that will use the Tasaf identification system to ensure inclusiveness in access to services of health
“Tanzania recognizes the fact that ensuring access to health care services for the elderly is one of the fundamental factors to ensure their survival amid the progression of diseases resulting from old age,” he said.
On the other hand, the government has guaranteed that, despite its plan to establish the UHC, it will not prevent health services provided through the Community Health Fund (iCHF).
The iCHF is currently on a voluntary basis at the district level aimed at increasing access to quality healthcare for people in rural areas.
According to the permanent secretary of regional administration and local government (PORALG) of the Office of the President Grace Maghembe, the government will not abandon iCHF, instead continuing to improve the scheme.
“People should not be worried, because they might think that the creation of UHC will be accessed only by rich people,” he said.
Dr. Maghembe made the remarks at the 9th Tanzania Health Summit themed “Quality of Health Care in Tanzania: Current Status and Areas of Improvement towards achieving HSSP [Health Promotion and System Strengthening Project].”
She assured the public and health partners that UHC will not neglect iCHF, instead, people will have access to health services according to their financial position because some affordable health care packages will be provided.
Commenting, the HPSS project manager, Ally Kebby, praised the government’s efforts on health saying: “The proposed UHC is a good thing for the people, and our organization will work together with the government to ensure access to quality health care.”
He urged the government to provide an enabling environment in terms of health infrastructure that would allow the public to access health care across the country without inconvenience.