Poor service deters people from paying health premium

  • MoH charges Rs 2,500 from a family for annual premium coverage of Rs 50,000

Kathmandu, September 29

The Ministry of Heath has launched an ambitious health insurance programme in three districts: Ilam, Baglung, and Kailali with plans to expand to additional 25 districts this year.

However, people in Ilam, Baglung, and Kailali have shown reluctance to get insured due to doubts regarding the quality of services provided in government health services.

Officials deployed in the districts to collect registration for insurance said the locals in these districts complained that most government health facilities lack doctors, medicines, and proper equipment, and it did not make sense for them to pay to purchase a health premium for such facilities.

“We must first improve service quality and infrastructure in government health facilities before launching the insurance programme,” Hardi Sapkota, district manager of Ilam of the health insurance programme, said.

“Most primary health care centres do not have their own dispensaries, lack medicines, and some even don’t have doctors,” he said, adding that people have shown little interest in the programme, given that many government health facilities in Ilam don’t even supply essential medicines that the government is supposed to distribute free of cost.

According to Sapkota, people have asked the employees to ensure that medicines, which the government has committed to provide free of cost in the health facilities be made available first. They have also asked to deploy consultant doctors at least in the district hospital prior to launching the insurance programme. Sapkota informed that 3,905 people of the district have so far registered their names for health insurance.

The MoH charges Rs 2,500 to each family of up to five members as annual premium for coverage of Rs 50,000.

The MoH said that any family member can receive treatment up to Rs 50,000 per year in government health facilities or in private centres.

However, no private hospital in the district has signed an agreement with the ministry to provide service under the government’s health insurance programme.

The MoH informed that around 13,000 people of three districts have paid their health insurance premium.

“The programme is voluntary for now so few people have paid their premium,” Dr Guna Raj Lohani, chief of the health insurance unit at the MoH, said. He admitted that government facilities lack essential drugs, infrastructure and doctors.

“We have great challenges to ensure medicine, manpower, and infrastructure in all government facilities,” Dr Lohani said. He said that the government has allocated sufficient budget to ensure those basic things.