Health insurance affordability still a challenge
Affordability of public health care insuarance for Namibian employees especially the low income workers is proving to be a burden for the Government. According to Pharm Access, given the potential capacity in the private sector, it is estimated that the burden on public health facilities could be reduced from 84% to 40 % if formally employed citizens and their dependents can have access to affordable private healthcare.
With many challenges and diverse obstacles, the provision of affordable, accessible and quality healthcare is regarded as very complex. At the official opening of the annual Namibia Association of Medical Aid Funds (NAMAF) conference in 2009 themed “Affordability, accessibility and healthcare: quest for the missing link,”. Health and Social Services Minister, Richard Kamwi stressed that financial barriers exclude poor people from accessing much needed health care services.
The Health Minister emphasized the fact that only 5% of the population are members of private medical aid funds, a further 10% are members of the Public Service Employee Medical Aid Scheme (PSEMAS), leaving the remaining 85% of the Namibian population dependent on the already overstretched public healthcare system “We need to be asking three important questions about our health care financing systems in Namibia: how do we raise sufficient funds for health services? How do we pool the funds and spread the financial risks associated with paying for care? And how do we use the available funds to purchase and provide the best quality health services?” said Kamwi. The challenge to the Private Medical Aid Funding industry, according to Kamwi, is to reach out to a larger constituency of the employed and entice them to membership with greater innovativeness.
There are currently ten medical aid funds made up of six closed funds and four open funds. The closed funds include NAMDEB Medical Scheme, NAPOTEL Medical Aid Fund, Bankmed Medical Aid Scheme, Roads Contractor Company Medical Aid Fund, Woermann & Brock Medical Aid Fund and Public Service Employee Medical Aid Scheme (PSEMAS) which is the largest. The four open funds include the Namibia Medical Care (NMC) Nammed Medical Aid Fund, Namibia Health Plan (NHP) and Renaissance Health Medical Aid Fund. The National Medical Benefit Fund (NMBF) which was proposed by the Social Security Commission, would result in providing a national health insurance for all Namibians, including the informal operators and workers.
In a 2012 report by Benedikt Brockmeyer, titled “The Health System in Namibia: Deliberations about an affordable national health insurance for the low income workforce in Namibia”, it is stated that most products offered by private medical aid funds are too expensive for the majority, especially low income workers in the formal and informal economy. According to Brockmeyer, although the NMBF is not implemented yet, research on the fund started in 2011. However it will take two to three years to bring the fund into place, as a comprehensive process will be followed to establish the NMBF and only after the adoption of the report will it become clear as to what form it will take and when it will be implemented.