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General News of Tuesday, 26 August 2003

Source: GNA

National Health Insurance Bill Passed

Accra, Aug.27, GNA- Parliament on Tuesday passed the National Health Insurance Bill amidst cheers and gaiety in a House where a ninety-strong Minority were visibly absent. They had boycotted proceedings relating to the Bill and described its passage as unconstitutional and an abuse of the parliamentary procedure.

The Bill seeks to put in place a mechanism that would enable residents in the country to obtain, at least basic health care services without having to pay any money at the point of delivery of service.

An accompanying memorandum signed by the Minister of Health, Dr Kweku Afriyie, said the Bill would provide a policy and regulatory framework in the country for health insurance that would enable "us as a nation, to achieve the goal of equitable access to healthcare for all residents in relation to need rather than socio-economic or socio-cultural status."

A regulatory body would be established under the Bill to license Health Insurance schemes.

According to the memorandum a regulatory council with the objective of securing the implementation of the policy would be established. "Among its functions are registering, licensing and supervising health insurance schemes and granting accreditation to healthcare providers and monitoring their performance.

It would also ensure that indigents are adequately catered for and managing the National Insurance Fund.
The membership of the council would include representatives of stakeholders in the health delivery sector and organised labour. The Bill imposed national health insurance levy "since a national health insurance scheme is not possible unless it can be effectively financed and the money must come from the owners of the schemes."
It provides a system by which there was to be established in every geographical area of a District assembly, a district mutual health insurance scheme.
Residents of those areas are required to seek membership of the scheme in the relevant district in order to obtain the basic health care benefits.
The community based district mutual health insurance scheme concept does not prevent the establishment of private mutual health insurance schemes nor private commercial health insurance schemes Under the Bill, workers who contribute to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) are not to make further contribution towards the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Pensioners are to enjoy minimum benefits under the scheme, while Ghana Armed Forces and the Ghana Police Force have been excluded. Dr Afriyie, told the GNA after the passage of the Bill, that all the necessary instruments and programmes are ready and only waiting for the President to give the Bill his accent.
We have identified all the relevant persons and groups to start the scheme with the help of everybody we would start when we are ready." He said, "I feel like having taken off a heavy weight off my shoulder. I'm emotional and I need a little rest."
The Minister said both Majority and Minority should have passed the Bill by way of consensus in the House.
"I do hope that they will come on board. This is a good beginning."