Compulsory health insurance on amid resistance

HARARE - Government is moving ahead to impose a compulsory National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), despite resistance by workers and employers.

The scheme, to be run by tax collector National Social Security Authority (Nssa), will see money being deducted from the formally employed salaries, in addition to the Aids Levy.

Labour ministry secretary Ngoni Masoka said government was moving to file motions to fast-track approval of the NHIS — targeted at providing access to healthcare for majority of Zimbabweans.

However, workers and employers are not keen on the plan, which will be operationalised through a Parliament Special Tax Act decreeing that all formal employers and their employees in Zimbabwe contribute a percentage of their income.

The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) told a social contract dialogue in Harare last weekend that employers were vehemently opposed to government putting the health scheme under Nssa’s administration, a concern shared by main labour union, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Emcoz executive director John Mufukari said: “The national health scheme is a sore point with employers. The elephant in the room is government expenditure. There is no question that it benefits everyone but we have government who as an employer is struggling to meet their current wage bill,” he said.

ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said a majority of its affiliate unions have rejected the government’s planned move, saying Nssa should not be allowed to administer the health fund given its stained background of giving paltry benefits to pensioners and investing in failed banks.

Masoka said he would take the concerns on board, but vowed he was forging ahead with the plan arguing government cannot “keep our heads buried in the sand.”

“If you look at all employees’ medical aid, it amounts to less than 9 percent. If we implement this scheme, it will benefit more than 40 percent of the country,” Masoka told the dialogue.

According to official estimates, only 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s residents are covered by private health insurance schemes.

Moyo told the Daily News that workers do not support the insurance scheme, claiming it was based on research conducted 10 years ago.

Nssa, which has 70 percent of its investments in the equities market and also has interests in 53 of the 60 companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, was recently dammed in a 2015 audit report by Deloitte Advisory Services.

The audit report revealed that the pension fund’s executives awarded themselves salaries of up to

$30 000 per month, housing loans of up to $2 million, and also incurred $10,3 million in tax interest and penalties on payroll-related items.

There are also concerns over Nssa’s investment policies, which have seen it reporting a 68 percent decline in full-year profit for 2015 after a $93 million asset write-down relating to its Celestial office park in Harare and a doomed Beitbridge hotel project.

Nssa also blew $2,5 million on the now defunct CFX Bank, losing $45 million in the now shuttered Interfin Bank, and splurging $12 million on overpriced Star Africa Corporation shares and another $1,5 million on Africom Continental.

The Apex Council — umbrella body for all civil servants unions — told the Parliament’s Public Service portfolio committee early this month that prevailing conditions were not ripe for the introduction of the NHIS.

“Civil servants are overtaxed, underpaid and overworked,” Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander told the committee, adding government has been failing to remit more than $200 million due to Zimbabwe’s biggest medical insurance company, Premier Medical Aid Society, with civil servants having to subsidise the scheme through top-ups and also grappling with drug shortages.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency, government employs about 300 000 workers.

Comments (1)

Why does this bankrupt gang think they will raise money for NHS when companies are closing down all around us ... and they can't even pay their employees? I have medical aid already why can't they extend this to those who need, can afford and want it? I DON'T!! Even the NSSA BS I don't even need it.

Sagitarr - 2 March 2017

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