Medical doctors under their body, Uganda Medical Association (UMA) have heaped praise on government for introducing the National Health Insurance Scheme Bill aimed at improving the provision and access of Health services to all Ugandans.
Cabinet sitting on Monday June 24 approved the bill and according to the Commissioner Planning, Financing and Policy in the Health Ministry, Sarah Byakika, it will ensure efficiency in the provision of affordable but quality healthcare services in the country.
“The bill is also intended to facilitate the provision of accessible, affordable acceptable and quality healthcare services to citizens irrespective of their age, economic, health and social status. It is also to develop health insurance as a complementary mechanism of healthcare financing and ensure efficiency in healthcare services,” she said while addressing the press on Tuesday at the Uganda Media Centre.
The bill provides for each individual above the age of 18 years to remit a certain amount of money to the National Health insurance scheme and acquire an insurance card.
Once it is approved, civil servants and formally employed Ugandans will be required to contribute 4 per cent of their gross salary with their employers topping up 4 per cent to make 8 percent as the monthly contributions towards the scheme.
Now, while speaking at the 15 Health Sector Barometer at Fairway Hotel in Kampala on Friday, Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the UMA President applauded government for taking what he termed as an important decision.
“The scheme will eradicate poverty due to health expenditures. We have seen Ugandans fundraizing through car washes for medical bills abroad. In health terms, one would be considered poor when unable to access a doctor or quality medicines or treatment,” Obuku said.
He said the bill empowers the paying citizen to demand for quality healthcare since “currently citizens are paying at various levels of healthcare directly or under the table” citing private facilities or buying additional medicines and laboratory tests absent in government facilities, and bribes in hospital free medical care.
“The difference with a national insurance scheme is transparency and accountability,” Obuku said.
He added that the scheme will as well improve health indices of the country since countries that embraced social safety nets for health have demonstrated higher life expectancy at birth.
Uganda is the only country outside South Sudan without a national health insurance scheme and according to Obuku, it is important for he country to harmonise her systems and not be left behind.
However, doctors have indicated that this is not the first time the policy is hinted on in Uganda, thus calling upon government to ensure its passing into law and consequential implementation.
“We are concerned that this is not posturing for political capital, indeed a national policy scheme was mooted as early as 1987 by prof Owori report. This promise has appeared in at least four presidential manifestos of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), we are aware elections are coming in 2021 and hopefully this promise will not be broken again. Indeed Uganda deserves better healthcare, education and food security from the taxes they pay,” Obuku said.
Obuku who called upon Ugandans to embrace the scheme asked government to increase the healthcare budget to cater for the unemployed youth, children and the elderly in the insurance scheme, saying it should not reduce government budgetary commitment to health.
“Government ought to invest heavily in equipment and human resources especially on the marginalised and underserved areas. The quality of care accessible should be similar across all regions,” he added.
Meanwhile, in this proposal, vulnerable people and indigents shall be exempted from the insurance cover but still benefit. Among the vulnerable people are poor orphans, people with disability, street children, individuals above 18 years of age but still studying and unemployed among others.