Medical Aid Societies Bill debate intensifies

HARARE - Medical insurers have claimed there is nothing wrong with them operating medical facilities, as debate on conflict of interest looms.

In a presentation made to the Health ministry on the Medical Aid Societies Bill the Association of Healthcare Funders Association said there was no justification of them making recommendations of service providers.

“It (a medical aid society) should not force members to use its own facility. There is, however, no justification for prohibiting it from making a recommendation or giving an inducement in a manner that any competitor would,” AHFoZ said in their presentation to government.

The authority which will regulate operations by medical insurers is set to end perennial squabbles between doctors and medical aids over shortfalls and remittances by insures to health service providers.

Some of the issues the Bill will address according to the Health ministry include establishment of medical facilities by medical aid societies as well as the registration and deregistration of the societies.

The sector is also pushing to be included into the imminent Medical Aid Societies Authority board, as the draft bill has not provided for their representation.

AHFoZ told the Health ministry during consultations of the Medical Aid Societies Authority Bill that it was not fair that they had been side-lined while medical practitioners had representations.

They argued that there would be a conflict of interest in having service providers, all of whom have an interest in decisions made by medical aid societies, dominating the board directly or indirectly.

The presentation by AHFoZ also spoke against annual registration of medical aid societies would create uncertainty in the industry adding that deregistration of medical aid societies should be done in terms of a court order, unless the society agreed to the deregistration.

They said the draft Bill did not create a lasting solution to the problem of fraudulent claims or offer solutions to the failure of employers to remit contributions to medical aid societies on time or at all.

AHFoZ pointed out that the proposed regulatory authority would be costly to run and suggested the number of board members should be reduced.

Government has also given both medical aid societies and medical practitioners a chance to give their input on the Bill, which would facilitate amendment of sections of the Bill.

During the past year, a tiff between doctors and medical aid societies affected thousands of ill Zimbabweans as doctors decided to reject health insurance cards over non-payment form the insurers.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa earlier said they had left the Bill open to allow for amendment.

“As this is a big issue, this is an important bill, we left it deliberately open.

“What usually happens is you put up a bill or a draft and you go to Cabinet and you tell your colleagues that you want to put up this regulatory authority and you ask them what do you think and you tell them the principles, and we did that and Cabinet accepted, the next stage of that is to put up the actual draft and have consultations,” Parirenyatwa said. 

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