23/09/2014 16:17 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Vietnam promotes health insurance expansion

Hanoi, September 23 (VNA) – Vietnam has made extensive progress towards offering universal social health insurance to its citizens, currently providing coverage to more than half and on the pathway to raising the ratio to 75 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020, radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reported.

However, despite the ambitious plans and strong commitment of the Vietnamese Government, obstacles persist and a concerted national effort is needed to speed up the process in order to ensure a healthier population, while simultaneously reducing the burdens of high health care costs on the poor.

The Master Plan for Universal Coverage, which was approved by the Prime Minister in 2012, targets expanding coverage to at least 75 percent of citizens by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020.

The plan also aims to extend health insurance coverage to reduce patient’s out-of-pocket costs for healthcare. The goal is to have at least 60 percent of all healthcare costs covered by insurance by 2015.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien says like other countries throughout the world, Vietnam recognises the importance of targeting health insurance care for all.

Currently, as of 2013, the country has obtained health insurance coverage of 69 percent of citizens and healthcare coverage is expanding incrementally year by year, Tien says.

The Government has always paid proper attention to the poor and vulnerable groups. Since 2006, all poor and ethnic minority people have been provided with health insurance, paid for out of the State budget.

In accordance with the revised Health Insurance Law starting January 1, 2015 the poor and ethnic minority people won’t have to pay any out-of-pocket costs for health care check-up or treatment. This aims to remove financial barriers to the poor.

In spite of all the country’s achievements, Vietnam faces challenges in expanding coverage to workers in the informal sector who are not already covered by government subsidies, a group that constitutes 30 percent of the population.

In fact, in the informal sector, a large number of workers, mostly women, have low qualifications and assume simple jobs with low and unstable income. Many of them cannot save money so they easily get into a vicious circle of poverty and disease. They cannot afford medical insurance nor afford to pay out-of-pocket for health care.

Vietnam has plans on the agenda to implement a wide range of measures, such as disseminating information, devising incentives to encourage all people to join medical insurance, and improving the quality of medical services for insured patients to address the challenges posed by the informal sector.

In addition to expanding health insurance coverage, Vietnam endeavours to have a top notch healthcare system. The country is funding investment and installing the latest cutting edge technologies, state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipping medical staff with training in the latest medical techniques to this end.

With improved medical information management systems, patient care can be obtained at a much lower cost benefitting the social welfare of all.

David B Evans, Director of the Department of Health Systems Financing, Expenditure and Resource Allocation (FER) at the World Health Organization, says health care for all is most difficult to achieve.

Especially, if medical expenses people have to pay for are not covered by insurance and they have to pay for them out-of-pocket.

Inequality in access to medical services and treatment by medical staff are also barriers to fulfilling health care for all target.

Health Minister Tien suggests that the Government should subsidise insurance fees and encourage other sectors to get involved in the task. Additionally, it should popularise the importance of health care for all.

Fundamentally, Tien says, achieving universal health insurance is all about improving the overall quality of medical services and renovating the medical system to reduce expenses that patients have to pay out-of-pocket.