Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Psmas in the intensive care unit

By Bridget Mananavire

Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) is suffering a myriad problems — decreased membership, legal battles and a general lack of confidence in the society’s card.

Premier Service Medical Aid Society
Premier Service Medical Aid Society

On its end, its debtors are also not remitting payments, resulting in the society being owed over $120 million, with a huge chunk of it being owed by the broke Zimbabwean government.

The happenings at Psmas and the supposed demise of it has angered members who are complaining about the dearth of quality service at medical facilities when using a Psmas card.

“In 2011, my wife gave birth through caesarean section, in 2017 we had another baby, we went through the same process and then I had to pay almost $1 500 on top. And you say that we should smile and you are doing good, the services that we are getting are poor and your leadership leaves a lot to be desired,” a Psmas member Tendai Chirawu said as he addressed the board and other members at the Annual General Meeting recently.

“The reason why people are getting away (renouncing membership) is not only because of the financial climate but it is also because Psmas has now become a laughing stock. The only tablets that you get in a pharmacy are paracetamols.  There are two things that must happen, it’s either Psmas must close or the board should just go.”

Other members also complained that unlike before they were now unable to purchase drugs using the Psmas medical aid card, as most pharmacies were no longer accepting it.

Psmas board chair Jeremiah Bvirindi said among other problems bedevilling the medical insurer is its income which had gone down by $8 million due to a reduced subscriber base. 

“The society continues to grow its public sector membership as not all civil servants are covered on medical aid and thus, continue to join monthly. However, private sector performance has not fared as well with company closures and income reduction meaning members either downgrade to lower schemes or withdraw from medical aid completely,” Bvirindi said recently. 

“Resultantly, the subscription income went down from $250 million to $242 million. The cash flow remained subdued during the year with only 70 percent of the subscription income being realised as cash by the society. This saw the amount owed to the society increasing.”

Furthermore, the society which is heavily subscribed by civil service had to cancel about $20 in million debt.

“An amount $19,7 million was provided for against the government of Zimbabwe’ (‘government’) employer contribution as it was in excess of the amount approved in the government’s budget allocation for civil service insurance in 2016,” the financial statements read.

Bvirindi said they were still going to pursue the debt to make sure they recover the money.

This, however, comes as the Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira revealed that government said it will not be settling its Psmas debt any time soon as they are other competing commitments, has said.

The issue came about during a question and answer session in the National Assembly, after former Health deputy minister and Gutu South representative Paul Chimedza asked how far government had gone in settling the debt to ensure that the country’s health service providers were not compromised.

“The issue of Premier Medical Service — it is not the only service provider that has not been paid.  We are aware of the current liquidity challenges and I am not here to say it will be today or tomorrow,” Mupfumira said.

“I have other equally important issues which require the minister of Finance and Economic Development, hence I have said I will follow through to find out the latest status on the issue.”

Recent reports indicate that the Zanu PF government debt to the health insurer has ballooned to over $300 million, with over 800 000 civil servants constituting the bulk of Psmas members.

Chimedza said as a result of government’s failure to pay the insurer, the country’s health system was crumbling.

“Service providers to Public Service are owed over a $150 million.  Hospitals and pharmacies have been closed and laboratories are struggling.  We are losing jobs in that sector and we are creating jobs for Indians.  People are now moving to India because we are starving our own system with the money that we owe.

“When are we going to settle the bill for Premier Service Medical Aid Society so that we capacitate them to pay service providers and then we bring our private health system up to scratch?”, he queried.

The medical insurer is also under investigation from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) which was looking into the society’s policies and systems as they need reformation.

“Zacc is going to conduct a systems audit at this institution and investigate how Psmas formulates and adopts its policies. As Zacc we acknowledge that indeed public funds were abused at Psmas that’s why investigations are on-going.

“Zacc takes its mandate seriously of investigating and exposing cases of alleged corruption in Zimbabwe and come up with tangible results so as to inculcate the public’s confidence in the organisation,” Zacc chairperson public education and publicity commissioner Farai Chinyani said recently.

Zacc is also still investigation Psmas former executive Cuthbert Dube-who was fired in 2014 over allegations of abuse of office, abuse of public funds, money laundering as well as tax evasions and other crimes.

Dube was fired in 2014 following revelations of his hefty salary — he had been Psmas boss since 1992. Daily News