While health insurance schemes in some African countries like Ghana are floundering for lack of funding, the National Health Insurance Fund of Tanzania is showing creative innovation that is heartwarming.
It has announced the introduction of loans to its partner health institutions to finance the procurement of medicines to relief pressure on the centralized Medical Stores Department.
“The NHIF will also continue to provide loans to health facilities to cover costs of rehabilitating buildings and purchasing equipment. We decided to embark on the move to complement health services in the country, the NHIF Director of Finance, Planning & Investments Deusdedit Rutazaa disclosed.
Addressing reporters Dar es Salaam, Rutazaa said loans would start going out in October this year to all health facilities in need of such assistance, adding that the NHIF would educate officials on how the loans would be made available.
On the modalities, Rutazaa said the loans would not be cash but rather any health facility in need would submit to the NHIF their requirement and identify the supplying agent.
“The NHIF will not take hard cash or cheques to hospitals but medicines… this is because in the past those who received the loans in terms of cash did not use it as intended that’s why we have changed the system,” he said.
Rutazaa said the medical loans will be under the supervision of the board in collaboration with the MSD, noting that the challenge that faced the medicine loan system had been the hesitation of the health centres to apply for the loans and that out of over 6,000 centres recognized by the NHIF only 225 applied for previous loans.
Mr. Samuel Ogillo, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Private Health Facilities in Tanzania (APHFTA), Samwel Ogillo said private hospitals welcome the loans with both hands.
“If NHIF will also support private health facilities with medicines it will be very helpful as there will be a reassurance of availability of medicines; sometimes NHIF delays to cover their arrears but if the Fund helps in provision of medicines then hospitals will be assured of providing services regardless”, Ogillo approved.
He commended NHIF’s decision to provide medicines instead of cash, saying it will ensure that the loan is used as intended, adding: “It is always a challenge when NHIF has delayed the payments of its customers as we are forced to prioritize customers with cash… we have to be very careful in making a decision because when the Fund has delayed its payment and we have no money to purchase facilities, automatically the customer with hard cash will be a priority,” he said.