90% of households not on medical insurance

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DESPITE the recent growth witnessed in the private health insurance sector, it is estimated that health insurance schemes are only serving less than 10% of the population, according to the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT).

BY SENIOR REPORTER

In a note accompanying PRFT’s needs basket for January 2014, the trust’s executive director Judith Kaulem said lack of access to health insurance has seen the urban poor contending with astronomical out-of-pocket spending on health care.

“From the households under PRFT‘s sentinel survey, about 90% of the households are not covered by any medical health insurance as most of them are not formally employed,” Kaulem said.

She observed that even those covered by health insurance have not been spared from exorbitant costs of healthcare given the way some medical aid societies have been abusing members’ contribution, forcing health service providers to demand top–ups.

“Due to corruption and mismanagement of members’ contributions, the medical aid holders have not been spared from catastrophic healthcare spending,” she said.

Public Service Medical Aid Society’s top management was recently in the limelight following exposure of mega salaries awarded to top management at the expense of service delivery. Following the shocking salary revelations, the society’s chief executive officer Cuthbert Dube—who was pocketing $230 000 in monthly salaries had accumulated $38 million debts — was forced to step down.

“Apart from a huge debt pile, the medical society has been failing to pay service providers forcing its members, the civil servants, to pay cash up front for health care. This is a double jeopardy to the civil servants considering that they are contributing their money into these pooling of risk schemes,” Kaulem said.

The health sector was allocated 8% of the National Budget expenditure in the 2014 budget pegged at $4,2 billion, slightly over half of the 15% outlined in the Abuja Declaration.

Kaulem recommended the revival of the collapsing social service sector and reversing the de-industrialisation in the country as well as financing the productive side of the social services sector to sustain economic growth and poverty reduction strategies.

According to PRFT’s Basic Needs Basket (BNB) survey conducted in January, an average family of five in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Shurugwi required a minimum of between $517,29 and $534,20, but the majority of households were living on an average $339,35.