The Committee To Defend The Right To Healthcare (CDRH) launched on Saturday a campaign titled Towards Social, National and Just Health Insurance to oppose an insurance draft law recently approved recently by the cabinet.
In a press conference held at the centre for trade union and workers services in downtown Cairo, the CDRH — an independent organisation formed in 2007 — accused the bill of "violating the constitution, opening the door to privatising medical service, and wasting the assets of medical establishments built by the money of Egyptian people over the years."
The draft law, which was submitted to the cabinet in November 2016, was approved earlier this month and referred to the legislative committee at the State Council for review.
Health Minister Ahmed Emad El-Din has said that the law would provide full coverage for Egyptians who cannot afford to pay for healthcare — 30-40 percent of the population.
At the launch of the committee's campaign, speakers criticised various aspects of the bill, including the standard of quality public hospitals would have to meet in order to receive insurance contracts.
"Public hospitals that can't meet those standards will be excluded from the health insurance system, yet we cannot speak of quality when the [state's] health budget is below constitution standards, and we're seeing a shortage in nurses, doctors and basic medical equipment," deputy head of the doctors' syndicate Mona Mina said.
Mina said this would open the door to privatising public hospitals, as those who cannot meet standards would have to sell some or all of their shares to private companies. She called for a clear addition to the bill that would prevent the private sector from buying out public hospitals.
Egypt has allocated EGP 53.3 billion in the FY 2016/2017 budget to healthcare — about 5.7 percent of total government spending and 1.6 percent of GDP.
Article 18 of the country's constitution requires the government to allocate a minimum of 3 percent of GDP to healthcare, and provide a health insurance system that covers all Egyptians and medical conditions.
The campaign also criticised the bill for raising monthly insurance fees to a point they said would place a large burden on low-income families, particularly under currently difficult economic conditions.
According to the committee, the campaign's launching statement has already been signed by a number of public figures, doctors, activists, MPs, political parties and NGOs.
Committee coordinator Mohamed Hassan Khalil told Ahram Online that the campaign plans to hold meetings with parliamentarians, political parties and various signatories to their statement to build public opinion pressure to get the bill amended.
Many Egyptians had for decades suffered from poor medical service and grim conditions at dilapidated public hospitals.