Tanzania's National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) plans to reach half of the country’s population of about 50 million people in the next five years, by targeting members in formal employment.
“So far, the insurance fund has registered 8,729,389 members, mostly government or public employees,” said NHIF acting director general Michael Mhando, adding that the institution hopes to cover 30 per cent of the population by the end of this year.
Mr Mhando said the Fund had also registered 5,585,274 members under the Community Health Fund (CHF), which targets poor families in villages and town settlements.
With meagre funds allocated to health services from the country’s annual budget, Tanzania has been relying on donors to finance the Ministry of Health.
This has forced key health providers — including the country’s referral health institutions such as the National Hospital of Muhimbili and Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute in Dar es Salaam, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Moshi, Bugando and Mbeya Hospitals in Mwanza and Mbeya respectively — to rely on the NHIF to fund most of their operations.
National financing system
Now the government is developing its first national health financing strategy, which will devise a system that will guarantee access to needed services for all. The health financing plan will work with the national health insurer to increase members through the CHF and NHIF windows.
NHIF was established in July 2001 with the aim of offering health insurance to pensionable employees of the central and local government.
The idea was to come up with a reliable and stable system of financing the health sector outside the general taxation system (which was already overstretched), with the aim of ensuring sustainability of services.
NHIF’s contributions cover six individuals within a family — one spouse and four children or legal dependants at a contribution rate of 6 per cent of basic salary shared equally between employees and employer.