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Government cautious on health insurance

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By Macdonald Thom:

Minister of Health, Atupele Muluzi, has said the government is careful with plans to introduce health insurance.

Muluzi said the government does not want to leave anyone behind on the issue of access to healthcare services.

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“It is comp l ex, looking at its impact. As government, we do not want to compromise our goal of providing free access to healthcare [services]. At the same time there is the issue of looking for more resources in the health sector… Therefore honourable members can understand the complexities of health financing and health insurance… Health insurance can only cater for the rich, leaving out the poor,” Muluzi said.

He was speaking in Parliament Monday when responding to questions from members of Parliament after delivering a ministerial statement titled: “Health in Malawi beyond May 2019”.

The Minister was specifically responding to a question from Salima Central MP, Felix Jumbe, who asked him what government is doing on the issue of health insurance.

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At the beginning of his response, Muluzi said he omitted the issue of health insurance deliberately in his statement, saying there are a number of issues to be considered on the issue.

Lilongwe Central Constituency MP, Lobin Lowe, asked the minister what government is doing to prevent an outbreak of cholera. He highlighted that although a promise was made that people in his constituency would be provided with potable water, the people are yet to be supplied with the water.

“Up to now, there is nothing on the ground. It is painful. The water reservoir is in my constituency but people there are dying of cholera,” he said.

But Muluzi said the government is in talks with a number of stakeholders on the issue.

“We have seen mushrooming of these peri-urban areas, outside the city of Lilongwe. This is an issue we are dealing with. We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development, Ministry of Local Government and all stakeholders on how we can prevent deaths from cholera,” Muluzi said.

In his statement, Muluzi also revealed plans by the Ministry to expand Service Level Agreements (SLAs) beyond Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) facilities.

Muluzi said a total of 131 SLAs have been signed to date.

He said that represents 93 percent of the target set for 2018/19 financial year.

“Going forward my Ministry is planning to expand SLAs with service partners beyond Cham. This is all to ensure we can maintain our commitment to Universal Health Coverage, making sure that everyone can access healthcare services regardless of where they live in the country,” Muluzi said.

In the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding with Cham, government has committed to continue to pay salaries for all health workers in Cham health facilities as a way of subsidising the cost of health care to populations in their catchment areas.

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