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Parliament Blocks Gov’t From Withdrawing Health Insurance Bill

State Minister for Health, Robinah Nabbanja

Parliament has unanimously rejected a move by government to withdraw the National Health Insurance Bill, 2019.

Robinah Nabbanja, the State Minister for Health announced that the government was withdrawing the bill, moments after the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga called for its second reading this afternoon. The Bill was first tabled before parliament for consideration in August 2019.

According to the Bill, all Ugandans above 18 years will be required to contribute to the health insurance scheme before accessing health services across the country. It also proposes a 4 per cent deduction on salaries of employees in the formal sector while their employers will contribute 1 per cent to the health scheme. Individuals in the informal sector will pay 100, 000 Shillings annually.

Nabbanja told Parliament that after the Bill had been tabled in Parliament, President Yoweri Museveni held a meeting with the Minister of Health and other key stakeholders from the private sector, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and the Insurance Regulatory Authority to confirm whether all key stakeholders had consensus.

She said that the president then established that some key stakeholders from the private sector are still not in agreement with the provisions of the Bill  on contributions and benefits yet this is the core objective of the National Health Insurance Scheme to pull resources from various categories of the population and ensure gross subsidies. Nabbanja appealed that the Bill is withdrawn as further consultations are carried out.

But Kadaga said that the withdrawal of the Bill was subject to the approval of the House. Subsequently, Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa, said that the same stakeholders highlighted by the Minister had been consulted by Parliament’s Health Committee, and were all in agreement that  Ugandans need health insurance.

Butemba County MP Pentagon Kamusiime also objected to the move by the government saying that a total of 30 stakeholders had interacted with the committee and these also included NSSF and the Insurance Regulatory Authority.

Stephen Mukitale, the Buliisa County MP said that government should by now be committed to having  the political will to solve health challenges amongst Ugandans. Mukitale said that the government can still have an input in the Bill even on the floor of parliament since consultations with different stakeholders had been already carried out by the Committee.

“This matter has been in parliament for over ten years…the debate about Health Insurance…the previous two parliaments discussed this. So when the Bill came, it gave hope to citizens that government finally is serious, it was giving hope,” said Mukitale.

Sarah Opendi, the State Minister for Mineral Development said that during her tenure in the Health ministry, the sector spent most of the time trying to have a National Health Insurance Scheme in place. She said that since the Committee had made consultations on the Bill, parliament should move on to consider the Bill since Uganda is the only country that does not have a health insurance in the region.

“It took us time to push this to where, finally, we were able to table a National Health Insurance Bill. There was wide consultation right honourable Speaker. I am surprised that now we are moving back because some people are complaining,” said Opendi.

Following these submissions, Kadaga put the question and the MPs unanimously voted in rejection of the government proposal to withdraw the Bill. Another request by Nabbanja to appeal that parliament gives her more time up to Thursday did not yield fruit after Kadaga said that the Bill had been on the Order Paper for long and that they could not wait any longer. 

-URN

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