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Draft health insurance law adds benefits for patients

Proposed amendments to the Health Insurance Law will add multiple benefits for insured patients, according to speakers at a conference held in Ho Chi Minh City on December 18.

Conference attendees from health departments and facilities said they agreed with the expansion of health care services included in the draft Health Insurance Law, which has been amended by the Ministry of Health.

Ngo Xuan The from Binh Dinh Province General Hospital said: “I see that more benefits for insured patients are stipulated in the draft” on the health insurance fund.

Under the proposed amendments, the health insurance fund would cover insured patients' costs for preventive therapies for chronic diseases or people with HIV; rehabilitation; periodic pregnancy examinations, prenatal and newborn screening; screening for diagnosis of non-communicable chronic diseases; healthcare services provided at home for seniors and people with disabilities; and products for treatment of malnutrition for children under six years old.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, Director of the Dak Nong Provincial Department of Health, said: “This regulation will match the ministry’s establishment of health clinics called 'Family Doctors' at the grassroots level. The clinics will improve the quality of primary care for local people.”

“Expanding covered healthcare services for insured patients will be good if the health fund has enough to cover the expenditures,” Huong said.

However, she noted that the low cost for health insurance cards may not be sufficient for the national health insurance fund to cover. In addition, hospital fees have increased, she said.

Dr Nguyen Minh Tung, deputy head of the Bac Lieu provincial Department of Health, said that the current cost to buy health insurance is equal to 4.5 percent of basic wages for people employed in companies.

Under the regulations, the costs are staggered, with the fee for one person in a family higher than the fee for the other members of the family.

However, Tung said the costs should be increased to 20 percent of the basic wage instead of 4.5 percent.

Huong said this would not affect the poor and near-poor whose coverage would be paid by the local health insurance fund.

Le Van Kham, director of the Health Insurance Department under the Ministry of Health, said the health insurance fund would ensure sufficient funds for insured patients’ medical examinations and treatment next year. 

Pham Van Toan, deputy head of the insurance department, said the cost for buying health insurance, however, would have to increase in the future to achieve a balanced fund.

Other issues discussed at the meeting concerned problems related to Vietnam Social Security’s payments for insured patients to health facilities and independent health insurance assessments.

Delegates said that an independent health insurance assessment agency separate from Vietnam Social Security should be created to address this issue.

According to the department, the number of insured people this year is 89.8 percent of the population, compared to 71.3 percent in 2014. The figure has already exceeded the Government's goal, which was to have 80 percent of the population covered by the end of 2020.