Dr Dorothy Gwajima, the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children said here at the weekend that the new law will cover other health insurance service providers, apart from NHIF.
The government is committed to ensuring that people from all walks of life get improved health services, in which case a universal health care law remains the best approach, she said, praising the NHIF board and management for their good work to improve services.
The forthcoming UHC will regulate health insurance institutions, with NHIF standing out as the biggest fund with many members, she asserted at the climax of events to mark 20 years of the NHIF, starting from July 1.
Many people who cannot afford paying for health services will get relief once the new law is in place, the minister underlined, pointing out that currently just 14 percent of the population has access to health insurance, and eight per cent or around 4.5m people are registered with NHIF.
“There is still a great job to ensure that many people are registered for health insurance services and NHIF should be prepared to cope with the new changes,” she emphasised, urging that the fund has to improve all areas of service provision.
She challenged the fund leadership to have in place strategies to reach the rural-based population, most of who do not understand health insurance and others who don’t seek such services as they aren’t close to them.
NHIF should improve its operational systems and where needed, seek additional support from other ministerial agencies and administration. It must similarly strengthen cooperation with other stakeholders among health sector service providers to sort out challenges and complaints raised by beneficiaries or targeted members of the public, the minister intoned.
Citing frauds and misappropriation of funds as among core challenges NHIF faces, she appealed to the management to put in place better mechanisms on claims, while acknowledging that NHIF officers were often involved in frauds. Those found in misconduct will face disciplinary measures, she affirmed.
“It is completely wrong to close services to the public because of misconduct of a few individuals,” she cautioned, saying it was more appropriate to “strongly deal with culprits.”
She called on the fund to increase public education by reaching many people, using collaborative approaches as those used to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier NHIF chief executive officer Bernard Konga said the fund had 4.5m members as of last month, including civil servants, private employees, farmers and informal sector entities.
With over 8000 offices in health centres nationwide, the fund is modernizing information flows with digitalized systems, more efficient compared to the old paperwork operational system, he said.
Registration of new members and lodging of claims can now be done online, reducing costs and time unlike in the past, which brings the fund closer to the people. “As of now, one can do everything online and get a health insurance card within 14 days,” he said, in the aftermath of establishing an electronic registration centre.
Outlining achievements of the fund, he said NHIF has disbursed 132.06bn/- in loans to health facilities as part of a programme to improve its services to service providers, noting that about 8482 health facilities have been registered with the fund, including government, private and religious health facilities around the country.
The NHIF management is working hard to ensure that far more people get its services, pointing out that there are over 1000 kidney patients now obtaining treatment through NHIF funding.
The government’s decision to adopt a universal health coverage policy was the surest way to provide health services to the people and especially the poor, he added.