95% Zimbos have no medical aid

Medical aid

ECONOMIST and policy expert Prosper Chitambara says a majority of Zimbabweans have no medical aid cover due to high poverty levels, with only 5% of the population able to afford medical aid.

Speaking at a post-budget review breakfast meeting in Harare on Monday, Chitambara, who is also senior research economist and policy advisor at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) said: “Currently about 5% of Zimbabweans are on some form of medical aid cover and I believe that we must come up with some national healthcare insurance scheme that is funded through sugar taxes or even taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.”

He said sin taxes could enhance the budgetary allocations to the health sector.

“We can even further enhance the health and wellbeing and social aspects of our citizens. It was recently proposed that 10% of tax should be channelled towards the creation of a national health scheme to afford uninsured vulnerable groups health cover,” Chitambara said.

His statement comes amid reports that Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product per capita is at a low of US$20 compared to US$113 in the region. This means Zimbabweans cannot afford to spend much on prescription medication, specialist fees, hospitalisation and other medical costs.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said there was need to introduce a mandatory national health insurance scheme to ensure universal health coverage for all.

“Currently only about 7% of Zimbabweans have access to medical insurance and this number is insufficient to ensure decent public health care,” Rusike said.

“No country can prosper without a healthy citizenry. In line with regional and global best practices, the national health insurance can be publicly funded through a combination of sin taxes from cigarettes and alcohol as well as sugar taxes to ensure primary healthcare to every Zimbabwean. The World Health Organisation has been advocating for sugar taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages to fight the scourge of non-communicable diseases. The sugar tax, apart from reducing consumption of sugary drinks, also raises additional revenue for Treasury.”

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