15 September 2018

Tanzania Eyeing Compulsory Universal Healthcare Model

Tanzania is working on a model that will help ensure that every citizen enjoys health insurance.

Currently, health insurance cover is a personal matter.

Deputy Minister for Health Dr Faustine Ndugulile told the The EastAfrican that a Bill is being drafted to realise the proposal.

He said the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Social Services and Community Development has toured Ghana and Rwanda, which run similar schemes in search for a viable model.

Rwanda has achieved over 90 per cent healthcare coverage whereas Ghana's stands at over 60 per cent. Tanzania's is just above 30 per cent.

The deputy minister said this model will help the government achieve universal healthcare, by making it mandatory for every person to be covered by health insurance services.

National Health Insurance Fund director general Bernard Konga said the proposal to have a law that obliges everyone to be under health insurance cover was important.

The NHIF has been integrating groups into health insurance under short-term arrangements, such as the Toto Afya Card for children and university students who pay Tsh50,400 ($20) per year.

Statistics show that health insurance in Tanzania covers about 32 per cent of the 54 million population. On the basis of this percentage, Dr Ndugulile sees the importance of the NHIF and the Community Health Fund (CHF) in designing packages to enable low income earners and those in the informal sector acquire insurance.

But not everyone is convinced. Former CHF director Athuman Rehani told The EastAfrican that he was sceptical about the nation's capacity to achieve the universal health services.

"Having a law in place and implementing it are two distinctive matters. The current budget for health sector is less than 10 per cent of the annual national budget, which is less than the 15 per cent benchmark, stipulated in the 2001 African Union's Abuja Declaration," he said.

Rehani cited South Korea as the most successful country in the world that is providing universal health insurance. However, it took the country 35 years to reach 100 per cent coverage.


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