'Only 10pc Zimbabweans on medical insurance'

HARARE - Only 10 percent of Zimbabweans are on medical insurance, a government official has said.

Gatsi Gatsi, planning and donor coordination officer in the ministry of Health and Child Care, revealed this during a half day stakeholders seminar hosted by Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit (Ziparu) in Harare Wednesday.

“We have so many medical insurance companies in the country, around 30, with three to four big ones,” he said. “All those are only serving 10 percent of the population, mostly in the formal sector. What does that mean in regards to the burden of the public health sector?

“Does it mean that the 90 percent cannot pay for medical insurance? We have a thriving informal sector and those are not necessarily among the vulnerable.

“When money is little, priority is given to critical areas. We need to ask the small to medium business owners plan for their health?

“If you were to ask any of them the questions, do you belong to any burial society they will say, yes, do you have medical insurance, the answer will be no.”

While there are no official statistics on the number of people in the informal sector, it is estimated that they constitute about 80 percent of the population.

James Matiza, National Social Security Authority (NSSA) general manager, said health was not a priority for most Zimbabweans.

“You know what happens is most decisions are made when somebody is healthy and a healthy budget is at the far end of most family budgets,” Matiza said.

“We are in talks with relevant office bearers in government to reintroduce the National Health Insurance Scheme which was suspended in 2007 because things were rough.

“The scheme will make sure those who can contribute, do contribute while government then provide grants to cover the vulnerable, especially in the rural areas.”

Government is financially insolvent with many unfulfilled obligations, prompting the Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to proffer a policy-based budget for the current year.

Matiza admitted the scheme was high end but he remains optimistic.

“It is very expensive but as a country sometimes you have to sacrifice for your own citizens,” he said.

The scheme’s first proposal stirred public outcry with critics arguing it will only overburden poorly remunerated workers already contributing three percent to the National Aids Levy.

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