Thursday, June 24, 2021

“National Health Insurance Bill Seeks to Fulfill Right to Health Care Services” Says Minister Samateh

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The Minister of Health, Dr. Ahmad Lamin Samateh, has told lawmakers in Banjul that the National Health Insurance Bill (NHIB) 2020, seeks to protect, promote and fulfill the right to health care services.

Minister Samateh said this on Monday before the joint committee on Health, Public Enterprise Committee and Finance and Public Account Committee during a meeting on the aforesaid bill.

He said right to health care is a fundamental human right recognised under the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as other regional and international instruments which the Gambia is a party.

Samateh informed the committee members that the Gambia Government initiated the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), with a view to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

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The scheme, he said, is expected to benefit the population by eliminating or reducing out of pocket expenditure on health (24 percent NHA, 2017), providing financial risk protection, increasing access to quality health care services, and providing the overall health system for better service delivery. He said health financing- the raising or collection of revenue to pay for the operation of a health system- is one of the pillars of the health system.

“It is a key determinant of health system performance in terms of quality, efficiency and quality. It has three functions, namely, revenue collection from various sources, polling of funds and spreading of risk across larger population groups, allocation of funds to purchase services from public and private providers of health care,” he said.

Minister Samateh disclosed that 60 percent of the total health funding comes from donors (international health development partners), raising challenges of sustainability and predictability of funding to the sector.

He added that cost of providing health care continues to rise due to increasing demand, changes in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, inflation and currency fluctuations.

“Although there are impressive revenue collection systems in place by the GRA and opportunity for progressive economic development through local government and civil service reforms, and attracting investment in the private sector, funding to the health sector, is still below the Abuja declaration of 15 percent of annual budget allocations,” he said.

Samateh said section 216(4) of the Bill states that the State shall endeavor to facilitate equal access to clean and safe water, adequate health and medical services, habitable shelter, sufficient food and security to all people.

He said for this to be fulfilled, the 2016 and 2017 National Health Accounts Survey recommended that the Gambia needs to address high levels of out of pocket expenditure in order to protect households against financial risk by devising prepayment mechanism such as National and Social Health Insurance Scheme.

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