Organisations for persons with disabilities have renewed calls to the government to extend the coverage of the community-based health insurance Mutuelle de sante to include prosthesis and other special medicines.
The National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) raised their concern last week, during the celebrations of the international day of persons with disabilities, held in Kayonza district in eastern Rwanda.
“Prosthesis or special medications like lotions used by people with skin complications remain unaffordable for disabled persons, and so we are appealing to the government to add them on the list of covered ailments,” said Niyomugabo Romalis, the president of NCPD.
So far, persons with disabilities can only be covered by Mutuelle de Sante when they suffer from common illnesses, but the government has promised their request “will be met soon.”
“Mutuelle de Sante was still in its initial stage and given how prosthesis and orthesis are expensive it was not possible to cover their bills. But discussions about addressing this issue have been concluded and services will be offered soon,” said Alvera Mukabaramba Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government Responsible for Social Affairs.
The minister avoided giving an exact timeframe, but said a meeting with all stakeholders scheduled for this week would set a time-frame.
According to Dr Mukabaramba, the Ministry of Health and Rwanda Social Security Board have been engaging the Rilima Orthopaedic Centre and Gatagara Orthopaedic Hospital about a partnership agreement that would see the two establishments offering their services to Mutuelle de Sante members.
The agreement will eventually be extended to Gahini Hospital, which last week launched a facility to produce prosthesis and orthesis. Most of the health services offering services to disabled persons in the country are owned by charity organisations.
With the increase in the number of facilities, the government expects the prices of the services to reduce. However, the patients would still be required to pay 10 per cent of the cost of service, as the scheme can only cover 90 per cent of the costs.
According to NCPD, a prosthesis costs between Rwf400,000 ($468) and Rwf800,000 ($936), which is too expensive for most people living with a disability. In most case these citizens depend on their families and charities because of lack of a stable income.
The 2016 Labour Force Survey released by the National institute of Statistics of Rwanda said the country had 484,000 persons over five years old with a disability.
According to the survey, only one-fourth of the working age persons with disabilities were in the labour sector, while the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities, which stood at 20.8 per cent, was significantly higher than the unemployment rate of the working age population, which stood at 18.8 per cent.
Members of Mutuelle de Sante, which is now managed by the Rwanda Social Security Board, have been calling for reforms for better services.
The scheme currently only covers medical services in government-owned or subsidised health facilities. There have been calls for the scheme to extend its coverage to private health facilities that offer specialised services.