Taking the lead: KPK launches health insurance for the underprivileged

In what can be seen as a major leap, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has launched a social health insurance programme for the underprivileged of the province.

The project will ensure the provision of health cards to the underprivileged in the first of its kind public sector facility in the country. Through these insurance cards, introduced along the lines of social security programmes in developed countries, the disadvantaged will be able to receive medical assistance at both private and public hospitals across the province free of cost.

In the first phase of the project, health cards will be provided in four districts namely Mardan, Malakand, Chitral and Kohat. The programme will then be expanded to other areas of the province.

The programme has been launched in collaboration with Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), a German government-owned development bank. The KfW will fund 88% of the total expenditure that amounts to Rs1.34 billion over five years in shape of a grant, while the remaining 12% will be covered by the K-P government.

While talking to the media at the MoU signing ceremony held at the health secretariat on Monday, programme in charge Dr Riaz said the total premium per family is Rs1,700 per annum and the coverage per family is Rs175,000 per annum, adding the per person coverage will amount to Rs25,000 per annum. KfW representative Masuma Zaidi was also present on the occasion.

Dr Riaz said 21% of the families will be registered through data collected for the Benazir Income Support Programme. He said the project will reduce the financial burden on public hospitals significantly.

He added the health department has also reached an agreement with State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) to collaborate, after selecting the government-owned company following an open bidding procedure. Dr Riaz said the issuance of cards will be handled by SLIC while the government will handle the disbursement of premiums.

The project in charge said health cards will initially cover 497 pre-existing medical conditions and will also incorporate maternity, child care, common surgeries, accidents, emergencies and common ailments at panel hospitals across the four districts.

Dr Riaz said the project will simultaneously improve the population’s health and uplift the standard of living. He said the cardinal objective of the programme is to increase access to quality health services and alleviate poverty by reducing the burden of health care expenditure on the underprivileged.

He said the Provider Payment Mechanism—a cashless system through which the health cards will operate—will ensure no involvement of cash on any level of the service and that card holders will be able to receive medical assistance at public and private health facilities alike, without worrying about the expenses. Dr Riaz added the total share of the K-P government will be enhanced to 25% by the fifth year.

While speaking to The Express Tribune on January 14, health minister Shahram Khan Tarakai said the K-P government will be the first in the country to introduce a free health care mechanism for the underprivileged that will be transparent and fully funded. Tarakai said the project was also discussed with federal authorities.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2015.