AWOL minister Parirenyatwa rapped

HARARE - Pressure is mounting on Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa — who has seemingly gone AWOL — to step up and resolve the intensifying tiff between doctors and medical aid societies.

This comes as over a million citizens are set to be affected by doctors’ decision to reject health insurance cards from July 1, due to insurers owing them $220 million.

This has left millions of patients to pay cash or rely on under-funded State hospitals.

The warring parties have been trying to get Parirenyatwa to intervene on the impasse, but he has not been forthcoming, as he has been out and about attending international meetings from the Vatican City to New York and now Egypt.

This also comes as parliamentarians on Thursday moved a motion to compel the Health minister to intervene or alternatively for President Robert Mugabe to issue an executive statement saying the matter was urgent.

This follows an announcement on Wednesday by the Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) that private doctors will be asking for cash upfront from patients for treatment, as health insurance companies were not remitting funds to doctors.

Furthermore, the doctors claimed they were being asked to pay for tax on money they had not yet received.

A letter, the association had written to the minister to resolve the conflict between the doctors and medical insurers as well as a taxing conflict with Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) last month had not yet been replied to.

“We did write a letter to the minister, we are still waiting for that response, in fact we had actually hoped to meet with him on Friday, the meeting had been set but it got cancelled last minute and we felt we had to continue really to explain our position,” Zima president Agnes Mahoma told journalists.

MDC legislator for Matabeleland South Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga called for urgent action as people’s lives were in danger.

“We cannot have individuals standing up and making a decision about what is going to happen to human lives and government is sitting there, watching and doing nothing about it,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said in Parliament on Thursday.

“The Constitution itself defines that there is right to health and this right to health has to be observed by medical aid societies, doctors and government itself.

“I am surprised that we are sitting here as Members of Parliament and there are no ministers on the front bench. I would have thought that the moment there was this crisis; an urgent Cabinet meeting would have been called to say what is it that we can do about this?

“We need to get at the highest level of government, somebody who is calling for an urgent Cabinet meeting and looking at how this can be resolved. We cannot have another extra 24 hours coming through. If this was happening in some countries, we would be having not a ministerial statement but a presidential statement.”

Zanu PF Chegutu West lawmaker Dexter Nduna said the minister needed to clarify issues as the announcement had caused panic.

“As I conclude, I need to make a prayer that the minister needs to come in and make a public pronouncement or give a ministerial statement to allay the fears because information is power and I shudder to think what my grandmother in Gokwe is thinking about now when she hears over the radio or through media that there is no more allowance or receipt for the medical aid cards.

“Information is key and there is no publicity which is bad publicity,” Nduna said.

Also presenting his motion MDC MP for Mabvuku James Maridadi said Parirenyatwa must intervene and correct the position.

“If there is anyone who is being mischievous, I think the minister must call them to order.

“I sympathise with medical doctors. I must not be construed to say that I do not sympathise with medical doctors,” Maridadi said.

“I would like to call upon the government because one of the issues that have been raised by the medical aid society, especially Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) is that government has not been remitting the money that it is deducting from government employees.

“The government is deducting money but that money is not remitted to Psmas. Mr Speaker, my prayer is that the minister as the regulatory authority must intervene and bring normalcy to this industry before people die.”

Comments (5)

I'm employed in the medical aid industry so I thought I should just bring some perspective here. It's not only Government that is in premium arrears. Many private sector firms are as well and this has imposed severe liquidity constraints on medical insurers. Secondly, two years ago doctors' tariffs were raised by 75%, making them the highest tariffs in Sub-saharan Africa. Insurers could only afford to pay a 20% increase. Were insurers to pay the higher set of tariffs they would very soon be insolvent, and what good would that do their members? During the past five years that medical claim costs have risen in leaps and bounds, average premium rates have remained unchanged. You can therefore at least give credit to insurers that they have done all they can to absorb rising costs. Finally, members are still free to upgrade to medical aid options that pay doctors in full. The nature of the insurance contract (which is between the medical aid and the member, and not the medical aid and the doctor) is to defray the member's medical expenses (hence the term "aid" in medical aid) and not to pay whatever the doctor chooses to charge.

Observer - 19 June 2016

Having read the article and "Observers" comment, a few things come to mind: Firstly one must admit that private health institutions charge very high fees - from consultations to procedures, extractions etc - seeking medical attention is really expensive. But I don't see how medical Aid societies can go for months without meeting claims sent in by health institutions, when the members concerned are fully paid up. Even if tariffs haven't moved (and I appreciate the efforts of Medical Aid Societies if they have tried to keep these low) arent there limits paid out for each scheme? What is stopping them from paying up to the limit for a particular service (like optical or dental for example) and let the patient sort the shortfall? Am I missing something?

Patient - 19 June 2016

Don't get me wrong-there ARE bad eggs in the medical aid industry. PSMAS is a prime example. It's unfortunate that it accounts for such a large share of the industry. In fact over half the amounts that are said to be owed to doctors are thought to be attributable to PSMAS. The truth is that most medical aids settle claims every month, but this settlement process has slowed in the last twelve months as a result of the fact that premium arrears are accumulating (so medical aid funds may actually not have the cashflow to settle all their obligations at all times) and the fact that settlements are often contested due to the differences between the doctors' tariffs and those of medical aids. The vast majority of schemes are in fact paying up to the limits that are stipulated in their contracts with members. It's just that the average time from treatment to settlement has lengthened for reasons I've just spelt out, and that doctors feel (wrongly in my view) that medical aids somehow have an obligation to settle in full irrespective of the invoice amount.

Observer - 19 June 2016

@Patient; i dont think you are missing anything! the general bottom line of the squabble is the current state of economic affairs and the medical aids are not being honest like the doctors are! med aids are in cashflow trouble as many companies are closing thus a cut-bck in in the revenue inflow to the med aids. similarly, multitudes of pple are losing jobs and thus pulling out of med aids. from the gvt side(psmas) there is no need for introduction to that. all these ills have negatively affected med aids and their remaining few active subscribers becoz they need to remain affloat as orgs and also need to meet the doctors' demands(claims). now to say heeee subscriptions are not coming on time is a cheap scapegoat to me. to say charges got increased in the interim while contributions remaind the same is untrue as any org would respond to market changes by naturally adjusting its pricing policy regime to cover operating costs and costs of supplies/services. if a member is not paid up to their med aid, they become 'suspended' & thus cant access med services at the doctors; they then pay cash or a shortfall will accrue(which the member must pay). wth this system the doctors have no problem! now the problem is, medical aids are saying our members are paid up, and doctors go on to attend them! when the invoices become due the med aids are failing to pay and they are giving all sorts of insipid & tasteless excuses. it is normal in the medical field to suspend medical aid facility if a service provider is not getting money from the health funders/insures, although it puts pressure on the patient who now have to fork out cash when they are paid up with their med aid. med aids are reneging on their fiduciary duty. they must admit that times are hard just like other industries are doing rather than pretending, shifting blame & flip flopping in the face of obvious problems that calls for simple integrity and honesty.

SaManyika Chaiye - 20 June 2016

lets first of all deal gushungo ,remove him from power , from there good tyms will roll ..enough is enough

visai vhanu pamvuri - 20 June 2016

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.