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Universal Health Insurance: Transforming Tanzania’s Healthcare System

by Kheri Goloka - 20 June, 2024, 12:00 185 Views 0 Comment

Tanzania, a country known for its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking landscapes, is now setting a new precedent in the healthcare sector. The country’s recent introduction of the Universal Health Insurance (UHI) Bill is a significant step towards achieving universal health coverage. The UHI Bill, tabled before Parliament in September 2022, was unanimously passed by the Tanzanian National Assembly on November 1, 2023.

The enactment of the UHI Bill by President Her Excellency Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan marks a significant milestone in Tanzania’s healthcare journey. This legislation aims to provide health insurance for all Tanzanian citizens, with special provisions for financing healthcare for the poor.

The UHI Bill proposes a mandatory requirement for every individual to register with the health insurance system. Employers are now required to register their employees for health insurance within 30 days of employment commencement. The bill also stipulates the removal of exemptions previously granted in healthcare, compelling every Tanzanian to enrol in a health insurance scheme.

UHI Bill is not just legislation; it is a beacon of hope. It envisages an autonomous fund to cover health insurance costs for the underprivileged, thereby reducing the burden of the cost of medical care. This aligns with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 set by the United Nations, which emphasizes achieving universal health access by 2030. SDG-3 advocates for “Universal Health Coverage,” promoting comprehensive health services across all care levels without imposing financial hardships.

Tanzania’s journey toward improved healthcare outcomes has seen significant milestones, including a reduction in HIV and AIDS-related deaths. Yet, the road ahead remains challenging. High maternal and child mortality rates, limited access to health services due to financial barriers, and the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are stark realities that the UHI Bill aims to address.

Under the new law, an equity fund will be established to subsidize premiums for low-income citizens and finance treatment for chronic diseases. The fund will be resourced through levies imposed on items such as carbonated drinks, alcoholic beverages, and electronic transactions.

The UHI Bill is set to be implemented on July 1, 2024, marking a significant legislative achievement in line with Tanzania’s pledge to the World Health Organization’s goals for Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This pivotal initiative is expected to bring about considerable health and economic advantages. It aims not only to save lives but also to alleviate direct medical costs for individuals, secure a steady funding stream for healthcare services, and enhance the overall quality of life for Tanzanians, particularly for women in underserved areas.

A key element of the UHI Bill is its impact on the insurance sector. The bill raises questions about whether the sector is deep enough to cater to the predicted and required increase in insurance coverage. It also prompts speculation about whether this will lead to an increase in the number of insurance providers or consolidation in the market.

While the UHI initiative serves as a cornerstone, it is part of a broader, more comprehensive strategy required to overcome the challenges faced in achieving universal health coverage in Tanzania.

Universal Health Insurance in Tanzania is more than a policy; it is a promise—a promise of a healthier, more equitable future. As the country moves forward, the implementation of this bill will be closely watched by the world, serving as a model for achieving universal health coverage and a testament to the transformative power of collective will and legislative action.

Tanzania’s commitment to UHC manifested through the Universal Health Insurance Bill, is a significant step toward redefining healthcare access and quality. It offers a pragmatic approach to addressing the healthcare needs of its population, paving the way for a healthier future for all Tanzanians.

This initiative is indeed a game-changer, not just for Tanzania, but potentially for other countries in the region looking to reform their healthcare systems.

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Kheri Goloka
Author is Health Attache, Tanzania High Commission, New Delhi.
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