The Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) has advised management presiding over the National Health Insurance Scheme to prudently utilize funds that are being raised to address stakeholder concerns.

Last week, Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) executive director Isaac Mwaipopo described the National Health Insurance Scheme as an indirect tax on an already heavily-inundated tax base, who would be subsidizing poorer citizens.

“It is not clear from the NHI Act whether monies from the Fund will be specifically earmarked for improvement of public healthcare facilities, including procurement of supplies and medical equipment in order enhance overall service delivery of the public healthcare system. In addition, what are the specific insured services that will be covered under the Scheme? The efforts to create universal healthcare for all Zambians is commendable, however, the above concerns will need to be addressed to provide clarity and consistency across other pieces of legislation and among various regulators,” observed Mwaipopo.

Responding to a press query, ZMA president Dr Samson Chisele urged the National Health Insurance Scheme management to seriously take into account concerns raised by stakeholders during the registration of scheme beneficiaries.

“Challenges in the Implementation of the scheme are real and ongoing. The National Health Insurance Management Authority (NHIMA) needs to address these challenges, including fears of unclear utilization mechanisms for the funds raised from the citizenry so that the country is not derailed from the benefits that its implementation will bring. Citizens should continue to insist that the operationalization of the Scheme will follow the proposed mechanisms,” Dr Chisele advised.

“ZMA urges NHIMA to seriously take into account stakeholder concerns during the ongoing registration for scheme beneficiaries. ZMA calls on all stakeholders to support the Implementation of the NHIS, while continuing to offer positive criticism. On its part, NHIMA should continue engaging stakeholders in order for the country to reach its intended goal of 100 per cent health coverage to all Zambians.”

However, Dr Chisele said he was confident that the Scheme would provide alternative and credible public health sector financing mechanism, urging members of the public to enroll with the Scheme.

“We should, however, not delay the Scheme’s implementation by waiting for the perfect environment as there has never been such a time, but people’s will and commitment with the understanding of the outcome should be the cornerstone of its implementation. ZMA is of the view that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) will provide an alternative and credible public health sector financing mechanism for the Zambian health sector,” said Dr Chisele.

“The expectation is that revenue collected from this process will go towards enhancement of Universal Health Coverage by ensuring access to equitable and quality healthcare services to all people who need it, while offering financial risk protection. We finally urge all eligible Zambians to take this opportunity to enroll with the Scheme in order to stand a chance of benefiting from insured health services.”