The Ministry of Health is committed to implementing the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Uganda to increase health insurance coverage in Uganda from 2% to 25% by 2025.
While opening the 5th National Community Health Financing Conference organised by Save for Health Uganda (SHU) at Sheraton Kampala Hotel, on 19th November, 2020, Dr. Olaro Charles, the Director of Clinical Services in the Ministry of Health who represented the Minister of Health, said one of the planned interventions for human capital development in the third National Development Plan is implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Dr. Olaro noted that the high out of pocket expenditure on healthcare at 40% coupled with high poverty levels at 21.4% were worrying. He commended promoters of community health financing (CHI) initiatives for spearheading the transition from out of pocket to prepayments for healthcare especially in the informal sector.
Dr. Michael Iga Bukenya, the Chairperson of the Health Committee of Parliament, indicated that their target was to have the NHIS Bill passed into law before their term of office expires. He added that the committee had completed scrutinising the Bill, which was tabled in Parliament in August 2019, and a report was ready.
In her remarks, SHU Board Chairperson, Ms. Leticia Nakimuli Irumba informed participants that SHU’s desire was to stop the narrative of people dying at home, illnesses advancing into complications, incomplete doses, self-medication, people selling off personal assets, and many other negative situations which arise due to lack of cash at the time when sickness strikes.
SHU Executive Director, Mr. Makaire Fredrick, said SHU organizes the annual CHF conferences to advocate for speedy introduction of a universal and fair NHIS, and promote community health financing initiatives as appropriate mechanisms to mobilize, educate, and enrol the informal sector, the poor and indigents into the NHIS. He added that a number of achievements had already been registered over the past four years which include:
- Recognition of CHF among some policy makers;
- Support for CHF from local government leaders;
- Public calls for health insurance for the informal sector;
- Expansion of CHF to more parts of the country particularly the north and east;
- Technological innovations to advance CHF; and
- Increased interest in the process of developing and introducing a universal health insurance scheme in Uganda.
The keynote address was delivered by Mr. Ramathan Ggoobi, an economist and lecturer at Makerere University Business School. He focused on the state of Uganda’s informal sector and opportunities for reaching its members with health insurance.
Presentations and panel discussions focused on:
- Preparations to introduce the NHIS
- Opportunities for scaling up community health insurance
- Strategies for reaching informal sector workers for NHIS.
- Approaches for identifying and enrolling the poor into the NHIS
Mr. Makaire thanked partners that included the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Federation of Uganda Employers and Uganda Insurers Association for their support which made the conference a success,
Mr. Walimbwa Aliyi from the Ministry of Health delivered the presentation on ongoing preparations for NHIS while Ms. Lydia Nabiryo from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development presented the proposed approaches for identifying and enrolling the poor into the NHIS.
The conference rapportuer, Dr. Martin Ruhweza presented a synopsis of views generated by participants in the regional meetings.
At the end of the meeting in Kampala, Mr. Makaire thanked all participants and partners for having made the conference a great success and pointed out the key actions to be undertaken before the next conference.
The theme for the 5th conference was Towards Universal health Coverage in Uganda: increasing demand for community health insurance to reach informal sector workers for the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme.
The main objective of the conference was to establish opportunities for scaling up community health insurance and generate practical ways to reach informal sector families for the proposed national health insurance scheme.
The specific objectives of the 5th conference were three:
- To share experiences of community health financing initiatives and prospects of scaling up community health insurance in Uganda.
- To promote health insurance initiatives in Uganda.
- To examine alternative approaches to guide enrolment of the informal sector into the proposed national health insurance scheme.
This year’s conference was divided into two sessions which were both physical and virtual. The first session comprised three regional meetings held in Gulu for northern Uganda, Mbale for eastern and Mbarara for the western part of the country. The regional meetings brought together CHI promoters, experts, local authorities, healthcare providers, civil society and development partners. The meetings were opened by the respective District Chairpersons who decried the high burden of supporting their voters to foot healthcare bills from time to time. They pledged to support CHF initiatives in their respective districts.
Presentations at regional meetings focused on:
- Basics and benefits of health insurance
- The journey of community health insurance in Uganda
- The proposed National Health Insurance Scheme
- Practical experiences of community health financing initiatives in Uganda
Participants were empowered with knowledge to establish and expand CHI schemes and to demand for NHIS.
The key resolutions from the conference were:
- Participants will take advantage of existing opportunities in organized groups to establish CHI mechanisms.
- SHU with partners will set up a coordination mechanism to provide technical support and learning opportunities for experience sharing on CHI.
- SHU will provide technical support to organizations interested in establishing CHI schemes.
- SHU will work with local government leaders through Uganda Local Governments Association to advocate for introduction of the NHIS.
- SHU and partners will continue advocating for speedy enactment of the NHIS Bill into law and recognition of the role of CHI in NHIS implementation.
The conference was officially closed by Ms. Leticia Nakimuli Irumba, the SHU Board Chairperson.