News MiddleEast21 Dec 2017

Egypt:Comprehensive health insurance scheme moves closer to implementation

| 21 Dec 2017

Egyptian lawmakers have passed a law to establish a comprehensive health insurance scheme that will cover 92% of the population or around 100 million people. The law, which was drafted over the past six years, will become effective after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signs the decree and it is published in the Official Gazette.

The government-run medical insurance scheme is scheduled to be implemented six months from now and rolled out in six phases in different governorates across the country over 15 years to 2032.

In the coming days, the government will begin reviewing the executive regulations for the comprehensive health insurance law, according to local media reports.

The comprehensive health insurance scheme is mandatory for all citizens residing inside the country and optional for Egyptians outside the country and for foreigners residing in the country.

Dr Abdul Hamid Abaza, head of the National Committee for Comprehensive Health Insurance, said that an employee will contribute 1% and the employer 3% of the total monthly salary to the scheme. The contribution rate of insured widows and retirees is 2%, and 3% for non-working wives and 1% for each dependent. The self-employed have to pay contributions themselves. Premiums will cost between EGP1,300 (US$73) and EGP 4,000 per year.

Other sources of funding will be treasury allocations, external and internal grants and government loans, donations, cigarette and tobacco taxes, highway tolls, driving licence renewal fees, vehicle licence fees, etc. The state will bear the healthcare expenses of those who are unable to pay for their medical treatment. They represent about 30% of Egypt's population, numbering around 35 million.

Under the system, the Health Insurance Authority shall be in charge of the insurance scheme. Its actuarial position shall be reviewed at least once every four years by expert. A second body, the Healthcare Authority, will be formed to be responsible for contracting medical services with public and private hospitals. All private hospitals will have to adhere to the prices set by the government. A third supervisory agency will be in charge of accreditation and control of medical institutions.

Objections

Although lawmakers have passed the law, the health insurance scheme continues to attract criticism from doctors and pharmacists who had voiced their objections to several provisions of the law for several months while it was still in draft form. One complaint is that the professional associations, like physicians, dentists and pharmacists, are not represented on the scheme's pricing committee.

Dr Ehab Taher, Secretary General of the Medical Syndicate, also said that the scheme favours private hospitals at the expense of government hospitals. The medical association has noted that multinational companies have started to acquire private hospitals in large numbers. If the government does not control healthcare costs well, this will pose a serious risk, the Syndicate said.

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