The National Health Insurance Scheme Bill, 2019 will be useful to Uganda if it can ensure access to health not only the contributors and their dependents but even the most indigent, the Uganda Human Rights Commission(UHRC) has recommended.
The commission which was appearing before the Health Committee on Tuesday, 10 March 2020 to present their position on the bill, wants Uganda to take the same direction the world is taking if it is to achieve health for all as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal three(3).
“For the bill to restrict access to health to only contributors and their dependents means that the poor and the most vulnerable who do not earn at all will be left out, yet we are saying we want quality health for all,” said Ruth Ssekindi, Director, Monitoring and Inspections at the UHRC.
The Commission also wants the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme to cater for palliative care for chronic diseases as opposed to simply providing treatment, cognizant that Palliative is more costly and often left to caregivers. “We are saying there is that time when you no longer need treatment but care, and for chronic diseases a lot of care is needed that you can’t expect it from family members or friends” said Ssekindi.
The Commission proposed removal of the restriction within the bill on access to healthcare when one forgets or loses an insurance card, saying that vulnerable people like the elderly are bound to forget their cards.
“If you say that people cannot access health services because they forgot their insurance cards at home, a person with a high fever will most likely collapse and probably die before reaching home,” Ssekindi said.
This, legislators said is most likely to breed abuse of resources by non-contributors or contributors who may not have renewed their premium.
“As a committee, we observed that we cannot expect all people to have self-discipline; if you give people that liberty, you will open up a window of abuse” said Hon Fred Baseke (Indep., Ntenjeru South).
Hon Beatrice Rwakimari (NRM, Ntungamo district) said the use of insurance health cards will be one of the key safeguards to ensure timely payment of premium.
The Health Committee is at the tail end of public consultations on the bill and will meet the Health Minister before the report on the bill is presented in Parliament.