HRH Princess Máxima launches the Health Insurance Fund program in Tanzania
The Health Insurance Fund and PharmAccess were honoured that Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima came to Tanzania to launch the Health Insurance Fund program in Dar Es Salaam on April 8th. Princess Máxima launched the program by handing out the first official insurance cards to three entrepreneurs who recently enrolled in the program.
The Princess, who launched the program in her role as UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, stressed the need for health insurance for low-income people. In an interview for the Dutch current affairs program Nova, directly after the launch she explains: ‘Access to quality healthcare is the most important thing there is. The number one reason why people go bankrupt, or are forced to sell their cow, are healthcare costs. All over Africa people pay for health out-of-pocket, as we call it.’
Health insurance, in this case for small business entrepreneurs aligned to the micro-credit organization PRIDE, grants these people and their dependents access to quality care. But, it does more, ‘it enables people to continue their economic activity, generating employment which is needed for the development of the country,’ says the Princess.
As UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development her mission is to encourage universal access to a wide range of financial services, such as insurance, saving accounts and loans, for everyone needing them, both individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Her presence and support made this festive event complete. The launch was held in the PRIDE office in the Temeke district in Dar es Salaam. A crowd of people outside and inside witnessed the arrival of the Princess and other distinguished guests, including the Tanzanian Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Hon. Mustafa Mkulo and the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr. Israel Kamuzora.
The audience and Princess Máxima were treated to interesting speeches to highlight the importance of the launch of the health insurance program in Tanzania. The goal of the Strategis Community Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIP) as the program is called, is to introduce health insurance to over 95,000 Tanzanians. Twenty healthcare providers have been selected where these people can get quality treatment with their insurance cards. The impact of this scheme was well put into words by the honourable Minister for Finance Mustafa Mkulo, who in his speech said: ‘the scheme is the first of its kind in Tanzania. It contributes to improving healthcare development in Tanzania; saving the lives of many.’
The first group to receive health insurance are the members of the micro-credit organization PRIDE and their family members, approximately 40,000 lives. ‘It is a great milestone’ said Mr. Malima, Managing Director of PRIDE. ‘All entrepreneurs need this kind of protection to shield them against disastrous healthcare costs and to make them look forward in building a future.’ He explained that SCHIP greatly contributes to the broadening of their services for their clients. It fits the philosophy of PRIDE as micro-credit organization to improve access to a wide range of financial services in Tanzania.
The PRIDE members will buy their health insurance, for a co-payment of 8 euros a year, from the insurance company Strategis, which is the local implementing partners of the Health Insurance Fund. Strategis is one of the largest insurance companies in Tanzania, providing mostly corporate schemes. ‘The launch of SCHIP is the beginning of a new era of delivering health to the under privileged’, stressed Chief Operating Officer of Strategis Mr.Ramesh Kurup in his speech. According to Mr. Kurup Strategis is proud of this pioneering role in Tanzania and cannot wait to move forward to achieve access to quality health care for the less privileged. He called it ‘such a noble cause.’
Not just noble, but a much needed cause, underlined Kees Storm. Kees Storm, Chairman of the Board of the Health Insurance Fund was the last speaker before the Princess handed out the first insurance cards. In his speech he made clear to the audience that health insurance is a vital and necessary instrument to protect people. ‘The lack of it can have serious consequences as we have seen too often. ’The consequences are not just bankruptcies but in the worst case also death, as people wait too long before seeing a doctor. Kees Storm was therefore visibly happy that after Nigeria the Health Insurance Fund has now started a similar program in Tanzania. ‘These people can now invest in their future, in that of their families and in the future of Tanzania.’
After these inspiring speeches the great moment arrived: Princess Máxima entered the stage to hand out the first insurance cards to three PRIDE members. With this memorable moment the scheme was successfully launched and, in the words of Mr. Malima the time arrived for a successful health insurance scheme in Tanzania.
Later that afternoon Her Royal Highness visited a clinic that has applied for an affordable loan by the Medical Credit Fund. During this visit she spoke to the doctor of the clinic about the need for this loan to make the necessary improvements. Last visit of the day was to Kilwa Road Hospital. This clinic has been fully upgraded by PharmAccess for the HIV/AIDS Workplace program for the Tanzanian uniformed forces to help fight the enormous problem of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania.