State allays fears over envisaged UHI

THOUGH it has been proposed that the Universal Health Insurance (UHI) be compulsory, no individual will face legal action over failure of being covered, the government clarified yesterday.

The state allayed fears after the proposed UHI Bill was read for the first time in the Parliament last week, thereafter the Bunge committee will embark on public hearings to gather views.

“We have proposed to the parliament that this matter should be compulsory. But, let me make it clear that no Tanzanians will be arrested, fined or prisoned because of not joining the insurance schemes,” Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu announced at a press conference in Dar es Salaam.

Data indicate that by 2021 out of about 60 million Tanzanians, only 15 per cent of them were covered, which means out of every 100 Tanzanians, 15 are covered.

However, she said, to get all Tanzanians onboard, the UHI membership card will be made as part of prerequisites to access some public services.

For instance, it will be compulsory for citizens to have health insurance whenever seeking driving license, motor vehicles insurance and admitting children for advanced secondary education or colleges.

Other services that will also be issued after producing evidence of being enrolled in health insurance schemes are provision of travel document (passport), Taxpayers Identification Number (TIN), business license, visa, sim card registration and provision of national identification card (ID), the Bill proposes.

Ms Mwalimu argued that such modal of pushing people to join the insurance cover has also been applied and proved success in some African countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and others.

“I allay fears among Tanzanians that no one will be arrested or fined, but the aim of the government is to make Tanzanians afford paying for medical services,” she elaborated, noting that the window will be open for people to make choice of their favourite insurance company to join.

Paying for medical bills on cash has been a challenge to most of Tanzanians to get services, as some sold farms, houses to meet medical bills, she said.

“This situation forced many households into poverty, for instance Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) treatment costs Tanzanians millions of shillings,” Ms Mwalimu pointed out.

She said if the Parliament would pass the Bill into law, the ministry will put more strengthen on educating people on the importance of having health insurance.

“We will also go step by step in implementing the Act, not that all things will start immediately upon the law,” he said.

Speaking over poor Tanzanians who would not afford paying for the UHI, Ms Mwalimu assured that the group will be exempted only upon being verified through the already existing arrangements of the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF).

“We would prefer people to contribute to the UHI by households, and we have proposed for payment by installments, about four installments in a year,” she disclosed.

The minister further explained that the government has continued putting in place good environment to enable Tanzanians access healthcare services close to their places.

Ithas invested heavily in improvinginfrastructures, like construction of more hospitals, health facilities at council, district and regional levels.

The efforts have also been in purchasing new medical equipment, and increase the number of health workers.

We have also witnessed increased purchase of modern health equipment.

Statistics indicate that from 2015 to 2021 health centres, district hospitals increased to 10,380 by 2021 from 6,871 recorded in 2015.

The number of public health workers also increased from 86,000 to over 100,000 from 2015 to 2021 as budget for drugs increased from 32bn/- to 230bn/- this year.

“All these efforts are directed to ensuring that the country meets Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health.

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