Making healthcare universal
Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait has said that medical services will be unlimited to beneficiaries with no cap on spending in Egypt’s new comprehensive healthcare insurance system.
The new system’s philosophy is based on providing comprehensive healthcare to ease the financial burdens on heads of families, Maait said on Monday during the inauguration of the temporary headquarters of the General Authority for Health Insurance (GAHI) in Cairo.
The authority has determined the package of medical services provided under the new system and adopted price lists in cooperation with all the parties involved in the system, including the private sector, said Maait, who is also chairman of the GAHI.
This had been done through the permanent committee for pricing medical services to ensure that the services provided satisfy all citizens, he added.
Maait stressed that the state was keen to ensure the solvency of the new healthcare insurance system, while making it flexible enough to keep pace with variables and ensure its continuity at high levels of efficiency.
“There will be actuarial studies every four years at most to review the financial sustainability of the system,” he said.
Maait also said that the system’s Supervisory and Accreditation Commission would work as a guarantee in providing quality healthcare to all citizens, as it would accredit bodies meeting quality requirements, periodically inspecting them and excluding those found to be in breach of the required levels.
The pilot phase of the system was launched in Port Said in July 2019, with over 500,000 beneficiaries registered. Maait said that necessary funds had been allocated for the application of the new system in two other governorates in addition to Port Said.
The governorates of Ismailia, Suez, Luxor, Aswan and South Sinai are scheduled to follow Port Said until all the governorates are covered by 2030. Registration started in the five governorates at the beginning of October.
Executive Director of the new healthcare insurance system Ahmed Al-Sobki said that 6,000 surgeries had already been carried out within the new system. He added that the system covered all medical services for beneficiaries, including medical examinations, imaging and medical tests, and major medical and surgical interventions if necessary.
The introduction of the system requires the capacity building of hospitals, healthcare units and teams, and the registration of citizens in medical units and centres, he added.
Maait said that the state was shouldering one third of the costs of financing the system. The remaining two-thirds were covered by premiums and other sources as dictated by law, including a tax on products such as cigarettes, road tolls, and a tax on companies.
Government officials announced earlier that those who cannot afford to pay premiums will be subsidised and monthly fees will be based on an individual’s income.
Maait said that Egypt was in second place after China in terms of growth in GDP, and that the Egyptian pound was improving against other currencies. He said that the government aimed to take the budget deficit down to 7.2 per cent by the end of the current fiscal year, while achieving an initial surplus of two per cent of GDP.
“This will allow us to have more capacity to develop public services, including health, and improve the standard of living for all citizens,” the minister said.
Improving health insurance systems worldwide, including in Egypt, is part of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) three, which aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages by the year 2030.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.