National Health Insurance Scheme noble, but . . .

October 21, 2015 Local News
Health Reporter
Government should engage in wide consultations on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) before implementation to ensure its successful rollout, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Mr Itai Rusike has said.
Speaking at a science café on Domestic Health Financing organised by the Health Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (HeJAZ) in Harare yesterday, Mr Rusike said the NHIS was a noble initiative but Government should embrace stakeholders’ input for its success.
“We hope once approved, the Ministry of Health and Child Care will not rush to roll it out nationally without proper consultations. It’s a brilliant initiative with a potential to assist the majority of Zimbabweans failing to access health services because of cost barriers,” said Mr Rusike.
Mr Rusike said civil society does not have faith in the proposal that the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) should administer the fund because of its history on investing in failed banks, giving paltry benefits to pensioners and current scandals that have led to the dismissal of its senior management.
“We do not know how far the ministry (Health and Child Care) has consulted with regards to its implementation but we strongly feel it should take a lead in its implementation instead of the proposed National Social Security Authority (NSSA),” said Mr Rusike.
He said although there was need to mull local sources of funding for health, issues of accountability and transparency to those local sources should not be overlooked.
Citing the example of the National Aids Trust Fund, Mr Rusike said there was need for the National Aids Council (NAC) to revive its initial structures which stretch down to the village level to ensure transparency.
“When NAC was in the embryonic form, they used to have structures down to the ward level but all these structures no longer exist. The structures now end with the district action Aids co-ordinators. Who then is NAC accountable to?” said Mr Rusike.
He also urged Government to take seriously yearly reports produced by the Auditor-General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, on the health sector.
“We are yet to see anyone arrested from the results of forensic audits produced by the Auditor-General year in and year out. This is what contributes to effective use of available resources,” he said.
Speaking at the same occasion, planning and donor co-ordination officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Mr Gwati Gwati said there was need for contingent measures to health financing in Zimbabwe as the sector was largely donor-dependent.
Mr Gwati said Government has completed work on earmarked taxes such as taxing alcohol, tobacco, mobile communications, mining and value added tax on certain products.
“This evidence (that the country can raise money locally through these initiatives) is yet to be presented to Cabinet by the minister but all work has been completed,” said Mr Gwati.
He said these taxes would enable the health system to put resources together and respond to the health needs of the country.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the April 2001 Abuja Declaration which recommends at least 15 percent of countries’ national budgets to be channelled towards health.
However, since adoption of the declaration, the country has never surpassed the Abuja target with the highest allocation so far being 12,3 percent allocated in 2011.
Other allocations range between 6 and 9 percent of the National Budget.
These allocations fall far short of the World Health Organisation (WHO) per capita recommendations of $34 as they range between $12 and $29.
According to Natpharm – Government’s sole drug supplier – over 70 percent of drugs in stock are supported by donors.