RMOs tasked with village health insurance take-up

THE government has instructed Regional Medical Officers (RMOs) to dispatch sensitization teams to villages in a new drive aimed at increasing enrolment in the Improved Community Health Fund (ICHF).

Equally, they have been challenged to make sure that health workers at district hospitals, health centres and dispensaries in their regions take up the improved system of public health insurance.

This directive was issued by Dorothy Gwajima, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of State, President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Governments), who stated that ICHF is a commendable way to improve health service delivery.

Speaking during a tour of the Chamwino Health Centre, she asserted that through increased enrolment in the health fund by members of the public, health facilities across the country are assured of getting money that would help improve services.

"I call on regional medical officers to ensure the ICHF system is working properly at all levels in order to help people, most of whom cannot afford high costs of treatment,” she said.

Health authorities at district level need to have a strategy where health workers teams are distributed in wards, villages to increase the rate of enrolment in the fund by the public.

The deputy PS emphasized that the ICHF agenda should be a lasting priority in health workers’ meetings, “bearing in mind that it is what the government is campaigning for.”

Boniface Richard, the coordinator for health services in PO-RALG said at the meeting that social health insurance targets large numbers of members in order to reap the benefits of scale, to make it sustainable.

"Without having big numbers of people enrolled, health facilities are likely to miss the target of improving health services through this system," he said.

Around 83 percent of the population is forced to dig into their pockets when they need medical services, with many households facing high health care costs compared to incomes or fail to obtain necessary treatment due to high consultancy costs and drug purchase inability.

With the support of international partners, among them the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the government assessed the situation of social health protection and developed an innovative strategy for reforming the insurance modal, which is now being implemented.

ICHF is an alternative scheme to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) intending to cover the informal sector and rural households. Earlier this function was placed under the Community Health Fund (CHF) and reached an enrolment of over 2.1 million households, covering roughly 12.6 million beneficiaries as of the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

The ICHF pools funds at the regional level wherel beneficiaries covered are entitled to services available up to the regional hospital level. This is subject to an exclusion list comprised predominately of specialised procedures and drugs. Access to district and regional hospitals requires a referral letter from primary health facilities, the coordinator noted

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