By Fred Kiva
KAMPALA. Players in community health financing and other social protection initiatives are urging government to pass the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) bill, 2014.
During a dialogue held at their offices in Bugolobi on Tuesday, community health financing players from Save for Health Uganda (SHU), Uganda Insurers Association, Uganda Community Based Health Financing Association and USAID/Uganda Voucher Plus Activity among others, noted that passing of the bill has been long overdue yet it would provide a legal framework for community health financing initiatives to thrive.
In 2014, Ministry of Health drafted the National Health Insurance Scheme bill, which has to date not been tabled before parliament. The bill among others proposes that, the employee contributes 4 percent from their monthly earnings to the scheme, which will be topped up with another 4 percent by the employer.
The draft followed a realization that while government introduced the policy on free health services in all its facilities, the services therein are inadequate and in some places absent. This has at times forced people to hustle, including selling their property or to acquire loans to address their health needs.
Fredrick Makaire, the Executive Director Save for Health Uganda, an NGO mandated to implement activities aimed at improving people’s access to quality healthcare services, says many people especially in rural areas still don’t trust their services, thus few embrace them.
“Right now there is no legal framework or policy to give the community trust and confidence in our services,” Mr. Makaire noted adding that passing the NHIS will provide a legal framework for people to have more confidence and embrace insurance services.
Mr. Makaire also challenged government to address the gaps in the draft bill, saying it only lays focus on the employed, in total disregard of the informal sector and the poor people.
According to Robert Kabaale, the Coordinator Uganda Community Based Health Financing Association, only two percent of Ugandans appreciate health insurance.
Reverend Sister, Ernestine Akulu, the Administrator Bishop Caesar Asili Hospital, one of the health facilities contracted to implement community health insurance scheme in Luwero noted that delays in passing the NHIS bill in Uganda had seen it stolen by neighbouring countries that did not have the idea before. She claimed that Rwanda had copied the idea from Uganda and implemented it faster and successfully.
“Rwanda picked the idea (National Health Insurance Scheme) here and they are implementing it smartly. How can an idea generated in Uganda be smartly implemented by another country!” Sister Akulu noted.
The dialogue which also attracted participation of members of the Health Journalists Network in Uganda(HEJNU) was in the run up to the 3rd National Community Health Financing Conference, due on November 8-9.
During the conference at Imperial Royale Hotel, stakeholders will discuss ways to enhance capacity of the informal sector to uptake Community Health Financing, review progress made in implementing community health financing and introducing the National Health Insurance Scheme in the past 12 months and demonstrate innovations in managing community health financing and other social protection initiatives for enrollment and retention of households of informal sector workers.
The conference will be held under the theme, “Enabling effective participation of the informal sector in community health financing and other social protection initiatives.”