Health Insurance Is the Way to Go [editorial]

This newspaper on Wednesday highlighted the heart-rending story of a two and a half-year old boy who has been given two weeks to live unless his poor mother can raise Shs 20m for an operation in India.

Kevin Vianney Kasumba was born with heart complications, according to the Uganda Heart Institute. To keep him alive, he must undergo heart surgery in India within the next two weeks.

The Shs 20m bill is already subsidised by Indian doctors, the story revealed, and many well-wishers in Uganda, who have been touched, had by Wednesday raised Shs 15m. Hopefully, Kasumba will get the lifeline he so badly needs and live to tell the story.

However, there are probably hundreds of Kasumbas out there, whose equally sad stories we will never read or hear about, and whose families cannot afford the costs associated with such sophisticated medical procedures. These children are dying every other day across our country. Healthcare is one of the most expensive needs in a person’s life.

Experts have pointed out that Ugandans are spending more than 10 per cent of their household income on healthcare. This makes fighting poverty harder. Even relatively well-to-do Ugandans struggle when faced with a situation that requires extended stay in hospital, very expensive medicines administered over a long time, or treatment abroad.

Fortunately for those well placed in government, the state picks up their health bills. But the majority of Ugandans are left to their own devices. Incidentally, one of the bills the government is planning to introduce in parliament this financial year concerns setting up a national health insurance scheme. With universal health coverage, the likes of Kasumba would have a higher chance to live and fulfill their dreams.

Previous attempts failed partly because the government simply wanted to shift the entire financial burden to the beneficiaries, which was perceived as introduction of a new levy on formally employed people, who are already choking on multiple taxes.

It was also not clear how the vast majority of people who are not in formal employment would benefit, since the plan appeared to target only formal sector employees. The new bill should overcome these concerns and bring all stakeholders on board, for the good health of all Ugandans.

Source : The Observer

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