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Gov’t Announces Removal of Buyback Option from NHIMA

The Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Brenda M. Tambatamba, MP, delivered a Ministerial Statement in Parliament yesterday, marking a significant step toward safeguarding the financial stability of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). 

She announced the removal of the buyback option from the scheme, aiming to address pressing concerns regarding its sustainability.

The buyback policy, initially introduced in 2020 by the National Health Insurance Management Authority (NHIMA), was intended to provide health insurance coverage and support to participants in the informal sector. However, concerns over sustainability have prompted the government to take decisive action.

Minister Tambatamba emphasized the necessity of consistent contributions to ensure the viability of the scheme. 

She highlighted that while the buyback program had noble intentions, it was being exploited by individuals who only joined the scheme after falling ill, paying minimal premiums, and accessing extensive healthcare services without maintaining their contributions.

The Minister outlined the financial strain imposed on the NHIS, with the cost of services far exceeding the contributions made by informal sector members. 

She cited examples where the average premium of K200 (equivalent to K50 per month) failed to cover expenses ranging from laboratory tests to specialized treatments like CT scans, dialysis, and cancer care.

Furthermore, Minister Tambatamba revealed alarming findings from an actuarial evaluation, indicating that the surge in claims, particularly from the buyback option, threatened the scheme’s solvency. If left unchecked, the scheme was projected to face imminent bankruptcy.

In response to these challenges, the government has made the difficult decision to remove the buyback option. The move is aimed at preventing the NHIS from collapsing and ensuring its continued ability to provide essential healthcare services to all members, particularly those in the informal sector.

While acknowledging the potential impact on members of the informal sector, Minister Tambatamba urged pre-registration and consistent contributions to mitigate any adverse effects. 

She emphasized the government committiment to promoting universal healthcare coverage and will explore alternative measures to support vulnerable individuals in accessing affordable healthcare services.

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