Premier Services Medical Aid Society chief executive Cuthbert Dube’s salary evoked outrage among Zimbabweans but medical aid is still a luxury enjoyed by only one percent of the population.
This was disclosed by Health Minister David Parirenyatwa in response to a question by Senator Priscah Mupfumira who wanted to know what had happened to plans to set up a national health insurance scheme since medical aid societies were short-changing the public.
Dube earned more than half a million dollars a month. Last year he was paid US$6.4 million which was enough to pay more than 1 400 civil servants for a year at the newly approved salaries coming into effect next month.
Parirenyatwa said “even though a lot of noise is being made about this (medical aid societies), just 1% is being catered for by the medical aid society and we do not want to subsidise medical aid societies. So the conditions that you have mentioned that they are stringent, are issues that we think if we have an authority, it will look into all that and see that the medical aid society does not refuse to assist people who are above 60, diabetic or have asthma because they are considered high risk patients”.
He said although his ministry was responsible for overseeing the operations of medical aid societies, the lead ministry in the establishment of a national medical insurance scheme was the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
Q & A:
*MRS. MUPFUMIRA: Thank you Mr. President. I want to thank the hon. Minister of Health and Child Care for the statement that he has given. Looking at what he mentioned about the formation of an umbrella organisation that will look into the operations of the medical societies and also what he said that PSMAS is not a parastatal and that a huge chunk of the finances that go to PSMAS comes from the Government.
The members of the medical society are at the mercy of the medical aid societies. The money is paid in advance, which means that it is a cash business from the ordinary people to these organisations that are being run as businesses for a profit.
I am saying, as the Minister of Health and Child Care, in line with the health of the nation, what can be done to have a national health insurance that can be monitored and managed by the Government because this is cash business. All medical aid societies are receiving money from us and they are running the organisations using this money, abusing it at the expense of health delivery. Some of the conditions are so stringent and we are really at their mercy. What can we do as a Government to have a national health insurance? This was once mentioned and looked into if you look into the archives. You will realise that it is an issue that has been talked about and it will reflect how it can be done to assist most people who cannot afford paying money to the medical aid societies. Thank you.
*DR. PARIRENYATWA: Thank you Senator Mupfumira. The issues that you have mentioned are pertinent, very true and need to be looked into especially medical aid societies or insurances. You may be aware that medical aid societies only cater for 1% of our population, while the rest are catered for by the Government and personal financing.
Even though a lot of noise is being made about this, just 1% is being catered for by the medical aid society and we do not want to subsidise medical aid societies. So the conditions that you have mentioned that they are stringent, are issues that we think if we have an authority, it will look into all that and see that the medical aid society does not refuse to assist people who are above 60, diabetic or have asthma because they are considered high risk patients. We are saying that is what we want to put an end to. Medical aid societies should not make a profit and the conditions you have mentioned should be looked into as we go into this authority.
We have to also find out why they do not want the so called high risk patients. It is better for them to charge slightly higher than to deny them and we need to look into that. The issue of medical insurance is an issue that started as far as 1997 and various issues have been written about the national health insurance scheme whereby everybody should contribute to the scheme even in the rural areas. They can actually pay using their produce. It is a good scheme and it gives basic coverage to everyone but it is something that has been talked about and postponed so I think Senator Mupfumira, what you said is an issue that needs to be taken up to ensure that the national health insurance scheme is there.
The lead Ministry is Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. We are just there to assist but I also want to say that currently, the hospitals or clinics in the rural areas must not raise their consultation fees. If a person needs to pay US$12, they want to raise it to US$16 or US$19 and as a Ministry, we are saying no for the time being. It should remain where it is and so, no institution can increase its fees. I am saying this to you as Senators that you should ensure that this message is taken to the clinics and hospitals that fees cannot be raised as yet until such a time that we shall see the need for the raise in fees. I thank you.