18 Mar 2014 11:00am
WINDHOEK, 18 MAR (NAMPA) - The Social Security Commission of Namibia (SSC) says although it is mandated to establish a National Medical Benefit Fund (NMBF), it wants to focus on broader issues of health coverage as well.
SSC Chief Executive Officer Kenandei Tjivikua made the statement when he announced the establishment of the Universal Health Coverage Advisory Committee of Namibia (UHCAN) at a media conference here on Monday.
The objective of UHCAN is to provide advice and guidance to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) - which it is primarily accountable to - on the development of systems and policies for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Namibia, with the focus on evidence and alternatives.
The regulatory provision and promulgation of the Social Protection Floor (SPF) gave rise to the idea that the SSC should look at broader issues of health coverage, instead of being limited to the NMBF, Tjivikua explained.
The NMBF will provide the payment of medical benefits to employees.
The SPF is a United Nations (UN) initiative led by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO), which emphasises the promotion of access to essential services and social transfers for the poor and vulnerable, inclusive of health services.
Tjivikua said the SSC, therefore, made a proposal to the MOHSS to provide support to its mandate of achieving UHC in Namibia.
While it continues to pursue the NMBF separately, the SSC officially received the mandate through a letter from the MOHSS to address the broader issue of UHC.
He went on to explain that Namibia, having been classed as an upper-middle-income country, is no longer receiving as much external funding as in the past.
There has been considerable concern about the sustainability of Namibias HIV/AIDS response, which has been credited with saving over 35 000 Namibian lives, averting over 70 000 HIV infections and ensuring that over 50 000 children are not orphaned.
Failure to find sustainable financing options for the national response would undo these sizeable gains. Options like UHC would provide considerable promise in sustaining both Namibias health system, including the HIV/AIDS health response, Tjivikua added.
Issues which will be addressed by UHCAN include what type of funding and administration would be most suitable in the Namibian context, what benefit package is affordable, and how it would be determined.
Other issues are what role the public and private providers will play under the new system, as well as what principles should govern provider payment in the new system.
At present, 32 institutions and bodies are represented on UHCAN, with deputy permanent secretary in the MOHSS, Dr Norbert Foster appointed by the minister as its chairperson.
Meanwhile, an inaugural meeting of UHCAN is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, which will formally endorse its terms of reference.
The meeting will also elect a deputy chairperson, while the proposed workplan of UHCAN will also be discussed at this meeting.