Parliament in session
Parliament has passed the National Health Insurance Bill. The Bill establishes the National Health Insurance Scheme to which all Ugandans aged above 18 will be mandated to contribute before accessing health services.
This means that, if assented to by the President, there will be a four per cent deduction on salaries of employees in the formal sector and a one per cent contribution from their employers, to contribute 1percent to the health scheme. Individuals in the informal sector will contribute an annual payment of 100, 000 Shillings.
Uganda’s population is thus ranked highest out of pocket costs for health in the East and Southern African region. Records show that Ugandans spend 41 per cent of household incomes on health care which lies within the catastrophic expenditure zone for above the 15 per cent recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, the bill which was first tabled before parliament for consideration in August 2019 was considered in the absence of Health Ministers who had earlier sought to withdraw it in vain. Robinah Nabbanja, the State Minister of Health for General Duties told Parliament that the government was withdrawing the draft to cater for the interests of key stakeholders who were never consulted.
The decision by MPs paved way for the plenary sitting chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to receive a report on the Bill that was chaired by Parliament’s Health Committee Chairperson Micheal Bukenya. During the debate on the bill, Gomba East MP Kalule Ssengo pointed out that MPs were facing a lot of challenges from their constituents because of poor medical services in the country.
‘Every day that I spend in my constituency, I get 20 to 30 people coming to me for money to go for medical treatment. This is because they don’t have the money and the facilities in our health centres are very poor,” Ssengo said. He added that if the insurance scheme was to offer solutions, then the country needs to have such a law.
Butebo Woman MP Agnes Ameede is optimistic that the scheme will help improve data management and bring sanity to the referral system. Ameede says that insurance schemes come with a lot of benefits especially the use of Information Communication and Technology- ICT which has more benefits in the health management system.
Agnes Kunihira, the National Workers representative raised concern over the implementation of the scheme saying that it puts the entire burden on the salaried workers who are already burdened with taxes such as Pay As You Earn, National Social Security Fund –NSSF and others.
Jovah Kamateeka, the Mitooma Woman MP said that Ugandans have waited for so long for the National Health Insurance scheme and that it is time for the Bill to be passed.
Julius Acon, the Otuke County MP welcomed the Bill saying that it will help improve the country’s health system. He said that people are so poor and a big challenge is faced by politicians to whom they always run for help to seek medical attention.
The approved Bill, now an Act of Parliament awaits assent by president Yoweri Museveni.