KATHMANDU, Oct 11: Parliament on Tuesday endorsed the much-talked-aboutHealth Insurance Bill, making it mandatory for public, community and NGO-run hospitals to provide free basic medical treatment to the insured citizens.
Paving the way for all citizens to be involved in the government-run health insurance program, the bill has provisioned that such hospitals should provide available basic treatment free of cost. The bill has also specified health services including plastic surgery and artificial insemination that are not to be covered by health insurance.
The health insurance bill also makes it mandatory for guardians to buy health insurance for their infants, children, elderly and disabled members. Though the government has been implementing health insurance program in some districts as a pilot project, it was being run without any legal ground so far. The government is currently implementing health insurance schemes in Kailali, Baitadi, Achham, Palpa, Kaski, Myagdi, Baglung and Ilam districts under the pilot project. The bill endorsed by parliament on Tuesday will come into effect after the president certifies it.
The bill aims to provide basic health security to all citizens and proposes mandatory enrollment for civil servants and the kin of migrant workers. It has also made it mandatory for private companies to enroll all their staff in health insurance schemes.
The bill has proposed guidelines to further elaborate the health insurance schemes. According to the bill, any individual interested in health insurance should pay an annual premium to an insurance company that has a contract with the government. However, some lawmakers demanded to keep the premium amount as low as possible keeping in view the income status of the citizens.
Responding to the lawmakers concerns during the deliberation on the bill in the House on Tuesday, Health Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel said that the government will bear the premium amount for citizens who are below the poverty line.
"The bill has provisioned that the government should pay the insurance premium in the case of poor and financially-deprived persons," said Pokhrel. He also praised former Health Minister Gagan Thapa for taking the initiative for this.
People joining the health insurance schemes will get yoga, nutrition, psycho-social counseling, immunization, family planning, safe maternity, general medicine, OPD, emergency surgery and ambulance services free of cost up to a limit determined by the government, according to the bill.
The bill envisages a board to oversee and coordinate health insurance. The board will comprise a chairman appointed by the government and representatives from the government ministries concerned, insurance companies and beneficiaries as members. The bill has provisioned making it mandatory for orphanages and child rehabilitation centers to buy health insurance for all those sheltering with them.
Chairperson of Women Children and Social Welfare Committee, Ranju Jha had tabled the revised the bill in the House earlier on Tuesday paving its endorsement from the parliament on the same day.