Medical aid in intensive care, Parly told

Source: Medical aid in intensive care, Parly told | The Herald June 5, 2019

Medical aid in intensive care, Parly toldDr Ruth Labode

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
The number of people seeking health care services using medical aid cards has gone down by half compared to last year, Parliament heard yesterday.

In its submission to the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care on the state of medical aid societies in the current economic environment, the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) said, in contrast, claims for this reduced number of patients had gone up compared to last year.

AHfoZ board chairman Mr Stanford Sisya attributed the decline of patients using medical aid cards to the prohibitive costs of services, which are pegged in US dollars in addition to RTGS claims.

Citing an example of dialysis services which are currently pegged at US$200 a session or the parallel market rate of about RTGS$1 600, Mr Sisya said the “rate” language has become the biggest driver of cost of services in the health sector.

A person on dialysis requires at least three sessions every week.

“Some of the service providers are charging in US dollars and using the parallel exchange rate. These leave huge shortfalls forcing some patients to forgo healthcare services as medical aid societies are not able to chase the parallel rate to meet the service provider fees in full. Members’ salaries are still in RTGS and not tracking the exchange rate,” he said.

For example, most specialist service providers are charging between US$50 and US$100 for consultation yet medical aid societies reimburse RTGS70, forcing patients to meet the difference as cash upfront or shortfall.

Mr Sisya said for hospital admissions some specialists were also demanding cash up front of at least US$250 and before attending to a patient.

He said the pharmaceutical sector was also not spared as prices were also pegged in US$ or RTGS equivalent.

“We have tried to increase the reimbursement levels to enable our members access medicines but not much impact has been realised and the worst affected are senior citizens with chronic illnesses,” Mr Sisya said.

AHfoZ board member Mr Keith Nkomo added that there was a serious mismatch between claims submitted by service providers and the number of people receiving treatment.

“The costs are huge and continue going up, yet the number of people who are receiving treatment using medical aid has gone down by almost 50 percent,” he said.

Mr Nkomo said most people could be resorting to other treatment alternatives.

Parliamentarians expressed shock at the revelations by AHfoZ adding that some US dollar charges were unjustifiably going up.

Proportional representative member of House of Assembly for Midlands province Cde Perseverance Zhou said the situation was dire as some patients were forced to cut  their medication by half because of the prohibitive costs.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Cmmittee on Health and Child Care Dr Ruth Labode concurred, arguing that without even talking of the ordinary person on the street, parliamentarians themselves could not even afford current medical  costs.