Expansion of health insurance coverage challenging: Gagan Thapa

Gagan ThapaKathmandu / May 13: Minister of Health Gagan Thapa has said the effectiveness of health insurance policy launched by his ministry would depend on how effectively public health institutions would deliver services.

The Himalayan Times quoted Minister Thapa as saying that in the first phase, civil servants and Nepali migrant labourers who go to foreign countries for employment would have health insurance coverage. “Health insurance will be beneficial only if insurance companies deliver their services properly,” he said, “The policy can work only if the public health institutions and government hospitals provide quality service.”

The government is preparing to launch health insurance coverage for residents of Kathmandu Valley first. The MoH has also set a plan to enforce nationwide health insurance coverage within three years.

The ministry has formed a social Health Security Committee, which will train ward level health workers, volunteers, and those who have passed high school. The government conducted pilot health insurance programmes in Kailali, Baglung, Ilam, Myagdi, Kaski, Achham, Baitadi, and Palpa.

According to Health Security Committee Director Gunraj Lohani, the committee plans to expand the policy in five more districts every three months. Under this scheme, insured people could get insurance coverage for treatment cost up to Rs 50,000.

Lohani said in order to make the insurance policy workable, the government would have to increase the number of insured people but that was a bit challenging. “The challenge is that people will buy insurance policy only if they are confident of the quality of care provided by public health institutions,” said Lohani.

General Secretary of Forum for Protection of Consumers Rights, Nepal, Baburam Humagain said expansion of health coverage for all Nepalis was challenging mainly due to poor health infrastructure and lack of competency.

Minister Thapa said his ministry was drafting new bylaws which can increase the amount of the insurance cover.

“We are enacting bylaws which will allow insurance companies and the insured people to fix premium and the final amount of treatment that the insured people could get for free”. He also said that such a policy could attract those people who can pay high rate of premium.

“Trained health workers will visit every household in an attempt to insure as many people as possible. Although doing so will be a bit challenging” the minister said.

Minister Thapa further said that a new bill relating to health insurance policy would be passed by the Parliament soon, as it was enlisted two/three times in the House’s business schedule. “I have just formed a committee to draft regulation for health insurance”, he added.

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