Not many Ugandans take insurance cover as a priority, with policy holders mostly doing it out of statutory obligation or as a job-related benefit.
But as more firms race against time to endear themselves to the population, Geoffrey Nzau, the new CEO of AAR Health Holdings Limited, told Alon Mwesigwa how insurance players can expand their reach.
Health insurance is tax -exempt here, yet the uptake remains dismally low. How best can Uganda boost medical insurance?
The exercise begins with us the providers to make the packages affordable. And honestly we have tried for as low as Shs 1,500 a day, one can get annual cover with limits of up to Shs 30m. After dealing with the issue of cost, we must sensitise the masses on the benefits of being covered.People must know where they are putting their money. But when they learn that it is no longer a luxury to be covered, we shall begin to see the numbers increase.
The insurance sector in Uganda has failed to grow – at 0.65 per cent penetration – Why do you think the industry has not won the trust of Ugandans?
It is about priorities and [lack of] trust. We are seeing uptake of insurance as being an aantage to a job. It is more of a benefit to staff. The number of people who walk in individually to buy cover is still low.
In that regard, what have you done to make insurance more attractive?
We have moved from having specific packages and now adopted a more styled way of doing things. We now customise our packages to suit the needs of our clients.
You have been around for three decades what impact have you made?
For 30 years, we have employed the best Ugandans to offer care to Ugandans. We have also increased our footprint and aocated change and reforms in the sector, thereby aiding the growth of the private sector by fostering healthy competition.
People do not treat it [insurance] as a priority, but if the government aids the public to appreciate medical insurance, then the people will start treating it as a priority.
What challenges have you met in the Ugandan market?
With health insurance, it’s all about appreciation. Do you appreciate that health insurance is the best way of cutting down your cost, saving for unforeseen circumstances or even reducing on the burden of worrying about what to do when there is a medical emergency? Well, here lies the answer.
The hurdles have been the ability to combat the minds of the masses on the above mentioned points. If Ugandans can realise the importance of health insurance the way we view it, then the major hurdle may just have been skipped.
The idea of universal health insurance is being mooted in some political corridors: do you see this being achieved in the near future?
With many of the African countries adopting this, [taking the example of] our neighbour Kenya, it is our cue. It’s all about being committed to the cause and this can be the best way to take health services in Uganda to the next level. It will all depend on what Uganda really wants.
Every day, African countries sing of eating at the same table with first-world countries like the USA, UK, and France, and this is just the first step in the right direction for us. All these first- world countries adopted universal health insurance many years back, which sends a clear message to us.
For a comparison on the continent, where does Uganda rank in terms of health insurance usage?
I would say Uganda currently is taking the right measures to catch up with the others, but in Africa not many countries have a g health insurance industry – [against] the background of the myths about insurance.
In Africa, insurance has been taken in the wrong measure from the very beginning, but if I were to rank out of 54 countries, Uganda would be around the 20th to 25th position in as far as health insurance is concerned.
Clearly, Ugandans are not rushing to you: what strategy do you have to reach more people?
There are many plans we have in place and some of them are already running. Every day, we think of how best everybody in Uganda can be covered into our health insurance policies. We try our best to design packages which are suitable for different individuals so as to capture as many willing subscribers as possible.
As they say, that a good soldier is always soldiering, we shall continue to soldier on and make this country smile even in the tough times of bad health in the breath of medical cover.
Source : The Observer