Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says the Health Insurance Bill will help reduce the gap between the rich and poor, adding that it is an outcome of a long consultative process.

And the minister who is also Mansa Central member of parliament says some politicians are politicizing the Insurance bill because they fear the political capital that will arise from its enactment.

Addressing the press in Lusaka Tuesday, Chilufya said only 3.9 per cent of the country’s population had access to health insurance cover and government was eager to get the entire population under a health scheme.

“The National Health Insurance Bill, where we are today is a culmination of long consultative journey and it is a matter that should not be politicized nor trivialized. It’s a Pro-Poor Initiative and it leaves no one behind and it reduces the inequalities between the poor and the rich. In Zambia today only, 3.9 percent of the population has any form of health insurance cover. We need to move to 100 per cent, that is our agenda for universal health coverage. And we will need to innovate to ensure that we raise the necessary resources to finance health systems strengthening interventions,” Chilufya said.

“We need resources, we need to ensure that we have put in systems that will remove out pocket payments for our people when they need health services. That is a barrier, we need to ensure that our people access health services without finance catastrophe or impoverishment. There are a lot of people today, who require services and require being taken abroad because they can’t afford or the capacity in the facilities nearby are not adequate, but they will not go abroad because the resources are not there, or they will not go to a private hospital with the necessary services because, they can’t afford.”

He said the benefits of the health scheme would be commensurate with the amount of money that will be paid by the employer and employee.

“The amount of money they pay is very little compared to what they would need to pay if they needed to pay out of pocket and they would not necessarily have money out of pocket at the time. It is extremely important to note that the benefits package that has been talked about is commensurate with the amount of premium or the contribution that is agreed to employer and employee or between the fund and the contributor,” he said.

“This scheme is actually targeting everybody leaving no one behind and it’s pro-poor. Those who are vulnerable, ill, very poor and cannot afford to pay, that’s the role of government to mitigate, that’s why we have social mitigation programmes today. We are providing health services literally free. What will stop us from just improving on those services with the schemes, and no one should mislead the public that government will now stop providing services. We are only going to make the services better. And we are also going to address the inequalities. We are going to remove the barrier of out of pocket payment, we are going to reduce the cost of services,” he said.

Dr Chilufya observed that some big insurance companies were worried that they would lose business.

“We know that some big insurance companies have issues with this because they enjoy that niche in business where the few that pay, pay a lot. This is not meant to kill any businesses its meant to extend cover to all Zambians and that’s our pro-poor agenda that we have as government and it’s meant to strengthen health systems, make them resilient enough to deliver universal coverage.

He admitted that government would have to improve the health infrastructure across the country.

“We need to ensure that we invest in infrastructure, we need to ensure that we invest in supply chain systems. We need to have the drugs the human resource, we need to have health information systems, so health systems strengthening will require innovative health care financing and we are going to leave no one behind,” Dr Chilufya said.

“If you want to leave anyone behind and leave people in compartments, you will realize that because of inadequate addressing of root determinants of health, you are going to get out breaks. Outbreaks of Cholera and everyone will be affected, the GDP goes down, the gains you scored go down, this is the importance of leaving no one behind. We need to bring everybody on board and ensure that everyone has adequate access to social services, so that they are healthy, and you must innovate to reach that state.”

He rebuked politicians who condemned the Health Bill.

“The notion that this will be a bigger burden must be thrown out. If you look at the amount of money that people pay out of pocket, when they are sick and get to the facility, it’s a lot. But with the one percent contribution, that will cover the household, all the members of the household and that will reduce the burden on this worker who always has to attend to the extended family when there are issues to do with health. Because out of pocket issues, are removed. This is an important pro-poor programme, pro-universal coverage programme and it will have an impact,” said Dr Chilufya.

“We would like to appeal to politician never to politicize this. Some of them even know that this will have very good impact and may want to mislead people and gain political mileage out of it. They are scared of the political capital that comes out of the good impact of it. And it’s important that as Zambians we agree that a political situation such as this need not be politicise the Bill. This should pull all of us together.”