Luwero, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Beneficiaries of Community Health Insurance schemes and local leaders in Luwero district want Parliament to pass the National Health Insurance bill afresh so as to enable them to access better services. In March 2021, Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Bill that provides for the establishment of the National Health Insurance Scheme.
The bill mandates all Ugandans aged 18- years and above to contribute to access health services. However, president, Yoweri Museveni has never assented to the Bill. It is among the bills the speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, said should be reintroduced in the House for fresh consideration.
Now 22,000 beneficiaries of the Community Health Insurance scheme spread in 90 parish schemes in Greater Luwero run by Save For Health Uganda, a Non-Government Organization, and local leaders have asked Parliament to reconsider the bill with urgency to enable them to access better services.
Fredrick Makaire, the Executive Director of Save for Health Uganda, says that although the residents in Greater Luwero and others already embraced Community Health Insurance schemes, they don’t have a legal framework that promotes or regulates them.
Makaire said they were hopeful that once Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Bill, it would address the legal challenges and enable them to roll out their services to other areas. He however said they were disappointed when the bill lapsed with Parliament last year and they are no efforts to re-introduce soon.
On Thursday, legislators on the Health Committee of parliament visited some of the Community Health schemes in Luwero to assess their performance.
Nulu Kijjambu, the Chairperson of Kireku Asiika Obulamu Community Health Insurance Scheme told the MPs that with a premium of between Shillings 75,000-400,000 up to six family members can access better health services in selected hospitals within the area.
Kijjambu explained that the scheme has also helped members to stop selling their property to cater for medical bills. David Bwengye, a member of the scheme, says that the scheme is affordable to low-income earners in villages.
Vincent Galama, a member of the scheme, said that it saves him over Shillings 1.5 million, which he would spend each year to treat his five family members out of pocket. Galama said that some residents who lack money to cater for huge medical bills have resorted to witchdoctors where they up dying from.
Ernestine Akullu, the Administrator of Bishop Ceaser Asili hospital told MPS that the scheme has enabled 579 residents to access health services at their facility. “Health Insurance shouldn’t cater for only people in the formal sector but even in the informal sector who are the most vulnerable,” Akullu told MPs.
Erastus Kibirango, the LC 5 Chairperson of Luwero district told MPs that the district council passed a health insurance scheme ordinance in 2018 that sought to regulate the schemes but the Solicitor General rejected it on grounds that Parliament was making a law to address the same.
Kibirango said that if Parliament fails to re-introduce the bill, the district should be cleared to operationalize the ordinance to promote the schemes since they are needed by residents. Veronica Nanyondo, the Bukomansimbi District Woman Member of Parliament and member of the Health Committee of Parliament, said the demands are justifiable and they are ready to support the bill if it is returned to the house.
Nanyondo said many people call MPs daily begging for help because they can’t afford quality medical care but they are also unable to handle the overwhelming requests. Yoweri Ssebikaali, the Ntwetwe County MP and Deputy Chairperson of the Health Committee, said they are waiting for the Ministry of Health to retable the bill.
It’s not yet known when health Minister, Jane Aceng will re-table the bill. She was quoted last year, saying the earlier bill passed by parliament didn’t favor all Ugandans, which needed to be addressed.