Civil servants oppose Medical Aid Societies Bill

HARARE - Civil servants are opposing proposed legislation seeking to regulate the functions of medical aid societies, describing the new Bill as unnecessary ostensibly because it seeks to duplicate the functions of the Insurance and Pensions Commission (Ipec).

Cecilia Alexander, chairperson of the Apex Council, the umbrella civil servants body, told the Daily News yesterday that government employees will meet on Monday to discuss the issue.

“While I would not want to pre-empt my personal feelings about the whole thing, we have called a meeting on Monday to discuss those issues and come up with a common position,” Alexander said. 

However, teachers, who form the bulk of the country’s civil service, pointed out that apart from being a duplication of an already existing institution, Ipec, they were  convinced this is unnecessary as the new legislation would serve no other purpose “besides creating jobs for the cronies and over-burdening poor.”

“In short, the ministry must not be allowed to take this route,” Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told the Daily News.

Majongwe challenged all civil servants’ unions to “rise to the occasion and reject this diabolical initiative whose sole purpose is to further impoverish our members”.

The Ipec is mandated by the Ipec Act Chapter 24:21 and the Insurance Act Chapter 24:07 to regulate medical aid societies since they are mutual societies.

While Ipec has been unable to regulate medical aid societies owing to what Majongwe called “some confusion about the situation,” he said creating another one was insensible as insurance companies that were mutual societies until recently, are already under the jurisdiction of Ipec.

Majongwe said it sets a wrong precedence where all other ministries will demand the same.

“Such a situation will result in fragmented regulation, which will affect policyholders, as is the case at the moment where medical aid policyholders are forced to pay regular premiums and at the same time pay cash upfront when they seek medical attention on the pretext that they would be reimbursed?

“A separate regulatory authority that is directly under a line ministry is likely to be just an extension of that ministry, which compromises its independence,” he added, calling on stakeholders to “stand guided by our humble submission because we are suffering, we surely cannot fund another milking cow for the bosses,” said Majongwe.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) urged government to abandon its plans as it allegedly only benefits the elite at the expense of the toiling civil servants.

“We want to encourage government to take heed of the sentiments we are expressing or they will regret their actions,” Zimta chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said.

“Such moves that are misguided are examples of policies that have destroyed government because what it simply does is to eat into the scarce resources there are. We are going to resist such efforts as we believe that with proper management Ipec has capacity to regulate all insurances.”

During the ongoing consultative meetings, government is engaging stakeholders including the insurers themselves before taking the recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Office.

The Medical Aid Societies Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the Medical Aid Authority, confer functions on such authority in relation to registration and control of certain activities of medical aid societies, to provide for the appointment of the Registrar of Medical Aid Societies, to protect the interests of members of medical aid societies, and amend the Medical Services Act (Chapter 1) to provide for matters incidental to or connected to that.

“The law is the law and once it is in place, it becomes a law. Sometimes it removes us from the comfort zones to uncomfortable zones, but it is the law.

“What we are looking at is putting in place an Act that is fair and which makes sure that we provide, as providers, a service that is conducive to the environment,” Health and Child Care ministry secretary Gerald Gwinji told doctors in the capital last week.

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