By Pauline Hurungudo
Those on medical aid cover must brace for steep increases in subscriptions as societies adjust their fees to keep up with soaring healthcare costs, the Daily News can report.
In a statement, the Association of Health Care Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) revealed that providers of healthcare services have hiked their costs by between 30 and 40 percent and that the cost increases will be met by subscribers.
“The fees for doctors, dentists and all other healthcare service providers apart from hospitals have been increased by 40 percent, while fees for hospitals have been increased by 30 percent. Both increases are with effect from 11 February 2019,” AHFoZ said.
The statement didn’t come as a surprise as some of the medical aid societies had already written to their members, informing them of the impending increases.
Only 10 percent of Zimbabweans can afford medical insurance while the rest do not have health cover owing to high unemployment levels and the prevailing harsh economic conditions.
The situation has lately been getting tougher for those on medical cover as well with some of the healthcare service providers demanding cash up-front.
Those who are still accepting medical aid patients are demanding deterrent shortfall payments with some even demanding payment in scarce United States dollars (USDs) to preserve value in the wake of rampaging inflation.
To add salt to the wound, doctors recently hiked their consultation fees payable via the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system or bond notes.
As for specialist doctors, a portion of it must be payable in USDs, which if unfair to most patients who earn their income in either RTGS or bond notes.
This comes hard on the heels of a general escalation in drug prices at private pharmacies that have adopted a two-tier pricing system for USD and RTGS payments, whereupon the former fetches a huge premium.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) told the Daily News yesterday that while the new tariffs will cushion health service providers, they will also make healthcare inaccessible to the majority.
ZADHR said there is now need for government to relook at the country’s healthcare financing system so that it is reformed from a model dominated by out of pocket payments and profit-oriented private insurance.
“Government must now place on the table a comprehensive plan on how the country will reform healthcare financing and how Universal Health Coverage will be attained,” the association said in a statement.
“Evidence from other countries has shown that either a tax-based system or the establishment of a mandatory social insurance fund for health will guarantee Universal Health Coverage for all regardless of socio-economic position”.
AHFoZ, which represents all medical aid societies in Zimbabwe, said it is still exploring sustainability strategies to cater for service provider groups that require foreign currency for their day-to-day operations.
“It is the hope of AHFoZ that the fee reviews will help ease the hardships medical aid patients face in seeking healthcare services. Regrettably, this increase has to be borne by the contributing medical aid member. As such, the increase is conservative in relation to some of the fees being charged. An increase that would cover 100 percent of the fees being charged would be both unaffordable and unsustainable,” reads the AHFoZ statement in part.
Zimbabwe’s health sector is beset by myriad problems.
It continues to fall apart precipitously due to under-funding and an economic implosion now in its 20th year.
Zimbabwe’s $694,5 million or nine percent of the 2019 health budget remains grossly inadequate to fund the critical needs in the sector while government has been accused of over-reliance on external financing from donors. DailyNews