By Julius Mugwagwa
In early September, I attended a three-day Zimbabwe all stakeholder conference on health in Victoria Falls, as part of the ‘innovative spending in health’ project. This event revealed, among other challenges, that just over 10% of Zimbabwe’s 15 million population has medical aid cover. This means that the majority of the country’s urban and rural poor, and those in farming and other remote communities, cannot access private or specialist healthcare unless they can pay for the service out-of-pocket.
One of the reasons why such a big proportion of the population is not covered is that the country’s economy is now dominated by an informal employment sector, one that poses challenges to businesses in the medical insurance trade on how to collect monthly premiums from would-be clients. Current medical insurance business models are suited for the formal employment sector, where people are employed in registered companies and have predictable incomes that are dispensed through banks. It is important to note, however, that the country’s 33 medical aid providers have not been found wanting with respect to the innovative packages that they provide – from individual and family packages, packages that allow access to different categories of health facilities, to medical insurance schemes that also encompass funeral cover.