New Zimbabwe.com

Labour demands wholly government funded National Health Insurance Scheme

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By Alois Vinga


THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) must be wholly funded by the government as opposed to subjecting citizens to yet another tax component.

The NHIS seeks to ensure that health services are accessible to all citizens in line with section 76 of the Constitution, which stipulates that every permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to access basic healthcare services.

The debate on how to implement the scheme has raged on for over a decade following brave resistance by ZCTU, which stood against the introduction of yet another tax measure.

At some point back in 2007, enactment of the National Health Insurance Bill was forcibly abandoned after the labour body threatened to mobilise demonstrations against the instrument, which they believed to be an unnecessary burden.

However, the government recently resuscitated work around the NHIS in a development that has seen consultations going on around the country.

Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com Wednesday, the ZCTU criticised the proposed scheme saying, while it is noble on paper, the arrangement must be subject to wider consultations and robust debate for adequate checks and balances.

The union proposed that the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has the responsibility to provide resources to social partners to enable them to undertake widespread consultations with their members.

“Countries like Ghana which have established the NHIS did so after a robust process led by highly grounded research data collected from all the stakeholders concerned.

“It becomes a challenge to milk the already overtaxed workers and citizens, who are already reeling under severe hardships to fund the initiative,” argued ZCTU.

Labour contends that the NHIS can only be rubber stamped after a mechanism has been crafted to incorporate informal sector workers.

“Our view is that on sustainable financing, the NHIS should be wholly financed by the government. Employers must contribute a certain percentage towards workers compensation and we would like to propose that the percentage be split towards NHIS and work related injuries,” the union said.

The labour organ warned that the current process still leaves out stakeholders from consultations.

“Why has the government decided to make the collection of the Health Fund tax the prerogative of the Ministry of Health and Child Care, when we have a specialised institution like NSSA? Is it a National Health Insurance Fund or fundraising gimmick by the government which is within the line of such taxes as the sugar tax?” ZCTU quizzed.

The labour union is also concerned that such an initiative may still do little to improve the country’s broken health care system considering that existing funds are abused to the disadvantage of the intended beneficiaries.