Challenge for Medical Aid Industry

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK THE government says it will be forced to quicken the implementation of another medical aid provision, should the medical aid industry fail to make health care affordable and accessible to the average Namibian. Noting that many employers do not provide medical aid for their employees because of exorbitant fees associated with it, the government says it can no longer carry the burden alone, as most people flock to public health institutions. Deputy Minister of Finance, Tjekero Tweya this week urged medical aid institutions to transform to enable the majority of Namibians access their services, failure of which Government would accelerate the implementation of the Social Security Commission National Medical Aid provision. He was speaking at a year-end function of the Namibian Association of Medical Aid Funds (NAMAF). “Should the medical aid funds fail in their transformation to make it accessible and affordable to all Namibians, don’t expect government to take the financial burden, as is the case now,” Tweya warned, adding that “should the government be forced, the mechanism is in place to address the situation.” The deputy minister said access to health care in the private sector was a concern to government because it has become more out of reach for the ordinary citizen. This statement comes after similar sentiments were expressed especially on the exorbitant bank charges that the Namibian consumer pays. Due to this, many Namibians in the lower income group would rather keep their money under pillows, mattresses and tin cans because they say banking is just out of their reach. In light of the publicity on the financial industry, Tweya advised the medical aid industry to restore credibility in the industry. He also invited the industry to dialogue with the government to find solutions to the challenges. While Vision 2030, the country’s roadmap to an industrialised nation, aims at having health care for all by that time, the escalation of tariffs, premiums and fees on a yearly basis does not keep pace with the income of the people. To achieve the goal, he said the industry should have a paradigm shift in the way they view the healthcare and also examine the role it plays in the process of achieving the Health Care for All goal. Tweya also noted that some players in the industry have reverted to increasing non- medical aid costs, such as wellness progress, funeral benefits and evacuation among others, because the medical costs are regulated. The medical aid fund industry will also be subject to a review of legislation governing it just like the government is about to review some measures governing the financial industry. This will however be done in consultation with NAMAF to ensure that the proposed amendments will be in the best interest of the members of the medical aid funds and the industry at large. Being a priority area of government, health is allocated around 7.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, an amount, Tweya said, that is one of the highest in Africa south of the Sahara.