GOOD health is an essential prerequisite for national development.
A sickly population comes in with complications ranging from high levels of work hours being lost to a huge bill in terms of funds required to treat the sick.
Therefore, efforts made to improve the Health sector, whether in service delivery, human resources, medicines and technology, health financing, health information systems and leadership and governance are always welcome.
In this case, Government is spot-on in its continued drive to propel the Health sector by planning to introduce a social health insurance scheme for the formal sector employees.
Health has always been an expensive undertaking world-over and many Zambians, both in the informal and formal sectors, have been grappling with financial hardships just to access quality health care services.
The working class, too has not been spared from the hustle of footing health bills as there are minority companies or firms that take care of their health needs from preferred health institutions at 100 per cent cost cover.
An ailment knows no day and can strike anytime or day.
It has often been noted that many times when people fall ill, they probably have no money to go and seek medical treatment, thereby aggravating the sickness.
As rightly observed by Central Province Permanent Secretary Edwidge Mutale,that due to the high cost of medical services, people usually treat their patients in their homes and when all fails, that is when they take them to the hospital which is usually too late.
Certain diseases or conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS need to be detected at an early stage but some patients as a result of the financial burden are unable to seek medical help.
By the time they go to seek medical treatment, some find that the disease has advanced and not even the best medical technology or drugs can reverse the situation.
This leads to high mortality rates and in most cases proves to be costly.
It is hoped that with the Government social health insurance scheme in the offing, the African or Zambian tendencies to wait till last minute to consult the medical professions mainly because it is cheaper would be a thing of the past.
Under the Government’s health insurance scheme, people would be able to access the medical services whenever they have to as they would have already paid for them.
Another outstanding feature of the scheme is that the employees would be required to pay a small amount and their employers to the health insurance scheme and when they require the health services, they would access them at no fee.
We, therefore, urge Government to expedite the process of putting up the legal framework to operationalise this social health insurance scheme.
The Ministry of Health has disclosed that plans have advanced to create a social health insurance scheme for the formal sector employees.
The ministry has so far finalised the consultation process and what was remaining was for the Bill to be enacted.
Notable also is that the social health insurance scheme would be tailored towards achieving universal health coverage in the country and a team of consultants have been invited to assist with the design and cost of implications.
Currently, Zambia has a few private health insurance schemes covering about 1.2 per cent of the population which are poorly coordinated and virtually unregulated contributing to frequent entry and exit of private insurance schemes.
It is envisaged that with the coming on board of the social health insurance scheme, many Zambians would have unlimited access to quality health care and would not be subjected to high medical bills by the private insurance schemes which are usually exorbitant.
With the health scheme up and running, Zambia would have a productive workforce which would meet head-on the challenges of the industry and boost production.