The first phase of Egypt’s new national health insurance system kicked off on 7 July to be applied in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, South Sinai and North Sinai. The system will be introduced nationally in six phases from 2018 to 2032. The first phase is planned to end in 2020.
Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said that the current year should witness the buildings, automated facilities and manpower needed for the first phase in the governorate of Port Said, along with the establishment of databases of beneficiaries. The other governorates would follow, he said.
The current phase aims to reduce waiting lists for patients awaiting surgery and critical medical interventions to a period of six months and to launch a programme to develop 47 model hospitals affiliated to the Ministry of Health among them 18 affiliated to universities.
The model hospitals will ensure a national supply of baby formula, vaccines and serums, among other items.
This is in addition to conducting comprehensive testing for the Hepatitis C virus among 45 million people and providing treatment to all infected patients in collaboration with major pharmaceutical companies within two years.
There will also be medical check-ups for young people and children under the age of 18 in schools and universities, Radi said.
Soheir Abdel-Hamid, the newly appointed president of the new Health Insurance Authority (HIA), said a committee headed by the minister of health has been formed two months ago to price the services of the new comprehensive health insurance scheme.
The committee is scheduled to continue functioning throughout the introductory period of the system in the five governorates. “Service costs and prices change every now and then, especially of medicines and medical supplies, some of which are imported,” Abdel-Hamid commented.
“According to an actuarial study, the cost of implementing the new comprehensive insurance system in Port Said alone will be more than LE6 billion,” she added.
Abdel-Hamid said the new system would be applied first in the five governorates due to their low population density and high possibility of development, increasing the chances of success of the new system.
“The Ministry of Health has already raised the efficiency of the Port Said hospitals during the past six months to implement the new system. It has also finished automating the system linking the hospitals to the administration of the health insurance scheme,” she added.
According to Khaled Megahed, the official spokesman of the Ministry of Health, the ministry has selected 29 hospitals in Egypt’s governorates to be model hospitals.
Under present plans there will be one model hospital in each of the country’s 27 governorates, except for Cairo and Alexandria where there will be two.
“These hospitals will provide the best quality medical services to citizens without any additional financial burdens. Among the provided medical services are open-heart surgery, bone-marrow transplantation, kidney and liver specialities, neurology and micro-surgery,” Megahed said.
However, the fact that the government has reduced the amount of money allocated to the health sector to 1.7 per cent instead of the three per cent of GDP stated in the constitution is one of the challenges facing the implementation of the new system, he said.
The government is trying to overcome this by imposing new taxes on products such as cigarettes. “Extra fees have been already imposed on certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce as well as IDs,” he said.
Megahed said that these revenues would partially cover the current cost of the first phase until further sources are identified. The government has also imposed further taxes ranging from LE1,000 to LE15,000 on licences for hospitals, medical centres, clinics and pharmacies.
The funding for the new system “will be in addition to $530 million provided by the World Bank to invest in improving healthcare. Around $35 million will be allocated for the programme to prevent Hepatitis C and support the new universal healthcare insurance system.”
He said the ministry had already renovated 13 medical centres in Port Said at a cost of LE130 million. These centres were located in high-density area and were “in addition to a further 31 health units currently being renovated.
Each health unit will provide medical services to at least 20,000 citizens. No patient will have to leave his governorate for better health services elsewhere,” Megahed said.
The new system’s second phase will start from 2021 to 2023 in the Luxor, Matrouh, Red Sea, Qena and Aswan governorates.
The third phase, from 2024 to 2026, will be in the Alexandria, Beheira, Damietta, Sohag and Kafr Al-Sheikh governorates.
The fourth, from 2017 to 2028, will be in the Beni Sweif, Assiut, Minya, New Valley and Fayoum governorates.
The fifth phase will start from 2029 to 2030 in the Daqahliya, Sharqiya, Gharbiya and Menoufiya governorates.
The last will be from 2031 to 2032 in the Cairo, Giza and Qalioubiya governorates.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 July 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Health insurance commences