Tanzania universal coverage bill still on the drawing board

Saturday December 15 2018

A doctor checks the health of an elderly man at

A doctor checks the health of an elderly man at a medical camp. Tanzania is working on a model that will help ensure the elderly access quality treatment at any public or private health facility in the country. PHOTO | NMG 

BOB KARASHANI
By BOB KARASHANI
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A Bill that would see Tanzania introduce mandatory health insurance cover is still on the drawing board.

According to Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu, the new law will pave the way for the provision of free health insurance cover to elderly citizens, giving them access to quality treatment at any public or private health facility in the country.

However, the concept of health insurance cover as a precursor for the full introduction of universal health coverage is still relatively underappreciated in Tanzania.

Currently, there are at least four recognised state-owned or publicly-owned health insurance schemes in Tanzania, with the National Health Insurance Fund being the best known

Statistics from the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref) country office show that by July this year, only 32 per cent of Tanzania’s 55 million people were covered under strong health insurance schemes that effectively reduce out-of-pocket health financing.

This is far behind the government’s own stated target of getting at least 50 per cent of Tanzanians on board UHI by 2020.

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One reason advanced for this is what many see as a generally lack of awareness, especially among the poor and marginalised, on the advantages of having a health insurance cover.

But an even more obstacle to affordable healthcare access for all is the growing commercialisation of hospitals and pharmaceutical industries.