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Only 10% of Zimbabweans on medical aid

by Staff reporter
22 Nov 2020 at 04:46hrs | Views
INSURANCE and Pensions Commission (Ipec) commissioner Grace Muradzikwa says medical cover in the country is not working for the majority of Zimbabweans.

Only one in 10 Zimbabweans have medical cover in a country of over 14 million people.

This is despite Zimbabwe signing a commitment during last year's United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on universal health coverage (UHC), which would ensure that all eligible citizens are covered.

Speaking at #TheBigDebate, an event organised by Alpha Media Holdings to discuss the viability of pension and medical insurance in Zimbabwe last Thursday, Muradzikwa said at a 10% coverage ratio, medical aid had skirted the majority.

"I think the fact that our coverage ratio is only 10% means that medical cover is not working for the majority of Zimbabweans," Muradzikwa said.

"If it was working, our coverage and penetration ratio would be higher than the 10%.

"My observation is that most of the people, who are covered are actually those employed in the formal sector.

"If you are a non-standard worker, you cannot afford medical aid, so I think this is probably the time we need to look at some kind of national health insurance. I think the need is there."

Low health insurance coverage, the high cost of health services and weak multi-sectoral coordination of programmes and projects in the sector have been cited as impediments to adequate healthcare in Zimbabwe.

According to the recently unveiled National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025) document, these factors have resulted in high out-of-pocket expenditures arising from payment at point-of-care.

"Private health insurance schemes in Zimbabwe are multiple and fragmented.

"As a result, it is not clear to what extent they are contributing to financial protection.

"With smaller multiple pools, cross-subsidisation is not realised," reads the document.

Muradzikwa said it was worrisome that no pensioner can afford medical cover.

"You are covered for the 30 years that you are working because your employer is paying.

"The day that you leave your employment you cannot afford medical aid anymore.

"In fact, I think that your pension benefit is less than the cost of medical contribution, so from day one when you are a pensioner you cannot be covered by medical aid.

"It is a very harsh realisation and acknowledgment that none of our pensioners, given the level of pension benefits that they are getting, can't afford medical aid and I think that is an issue of serious concern to us as a commission."

The Ipec boss said there was need to structure social protection so that when an employee makes contributions to medical aid during their working life they can also get that kind of cover when they leave their job.

"I am only aware of one or two pension funds that are currently paying medical cover for their pensioners otherwise the rest of the pension funds do not pay medical cover for their pensioners," she said.

Part of the reason why pension funds and medical aid organisations are failing to provide cover to the majority of Zimbabweans was due to the high drug and medical equipment costs owing to the depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar.

A consultant, Nigel Chanakira, who has been working with medical aid providers for sometime, said he was also concerned.

"There is a window we can exploit," Chanakira said.

"There are nine local drug manufacturers that produce drugs for local human consumption. "If you look at the cost of the formula to produce those very drugs, you will see that they are charging a fortune so I think we can rejig the whole pharmaceutical sector because it is so critical if nine out of 10 are going to die due to lack
of medical cover."

He said Zimbabwe must begin to produce some of the top 400 imperative drugs locally.

"It is going to cost us a whole lot less than the arm and leg, which (foreign drug firms) are charging us," Chanakira said.

"Some work has been done by Unido and that research is there in terms of what can be done by the medical sector if we are serious.

"But, right now, I get the impression that we are not serious about medical cover redesign in terms of affordable health care."

Source - the standard