CAIRO: Doctors and activists have called on Egyptians to “rally against proposed government changes to the health insurance law they say will jeopardize health insurance beneficiaries’ right to health.
Speaking during a charged seminar held on Sunday at the Journalists’ Syndicate, member of the Committee for the Defense of the Right to Health Dr Mohamed Hassan Khalil warned that the Committee’s four-year fight against health insurance law was at a pivotal stage, following the publication on Thursday in independent daily El-Masry El-Youm of a draft health insurance law, which will be presented to the People’s Assembly during the next parliamentary session.
According to the system described in the draft law, health insurance beneficiaries will be required to pay a percentage of the cost of health treatment and medicines: no more than 30 percent for services outside hospitals and a maximum of 5 percent for services such as operations accessed inside hospitals.
While the draft law states that the “financial ability of beneficiaries will be taken into consideration, Khalil was strongly critical of what he described as government plans to turn the provision of health insurance services into a profit-making activity.
“We refuse the idea that quality in service provision can only be realized through privatization, Khalil told the seminar, making reference to the “historic court verdict issued in September 2008 which froze government plans to place Egypt’s health insurance system under the control of a profit-making company.
“In its reasoning, the Administrative Court said that a free market philosophy should not come at the expense of patients’ right to health, Khalil explained.
The April 2007 prime ministerial decision frozen by the Administrative Court sought to create a holding company for health care and transfer the ownership of all health insurance clinics and hospitals to it.
The Committee rejects the idea of making patients pay a percentage of costs because, Khalil said, it will have “disastrous consequences by introducing an element of uncertainty to the amount beneficiaries will be expected to pay.
He described the case of a 13-year old girl called Nourhan diagnosed with Leukemia whose mother was told this year that she would be expected to contribute LE 25,000 to the LE 75,000 cost of a bone marrow operation. When, Khalil said, Nourhan’s mother asked the hospital how they expected her to find this sum of money she was told to ask charitable groups for it.
In addition to demanding that health insurance beneficiaries pay for their treatment via a fixed subscription payment rather than open-ended contributions to individual services, the Committee is calling for state healthcare spending to be increased to 15 percent in line with United Nations Millennium Development goals.
Muslim Brotherhood MP and member of the PA Health Committee Gamal El-Qorony told the seminar that opposition MPs are a minority in parliament and that “if the ruling National Democratic Party want it to pass, the draft law will be passed .
El-Qorony called for a protest against the draft law outside the PA at the start of the new parliamentary session.