Chief of the Health Insurance Department in the Ministry of Health Tong Thi Song Huong spoke to Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about a universal health insurance plan
|People pay hospital fees at the National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in Ha Noi. Universal health insurance is scheduled to expand by 2015. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
The rich care little for health care insurance services while the poor increasingly need it, despite not owning health insurance cards. In your opinion, what is the reason?
By the end of last year, up to 63.7 per cent of the population signed up for health insurance. Of this number, 14 million are from poor and ethnic minority groups while 10 million are children under six and other beneficiaries.
According to our findings, 74 per cent of farmers and tradecraft villagers have not purchased health insurance cards. The rate is 49 per cent among workers at enterprises and 75 per cent among near-poor groups. Enterprises often avoid buying insurance while labourers remain unaware of their rights and poor farmers know little about the importance of such cards. The near-poor cannot afford the cards though they have received 50 to 70 per cent in aid from the Government.
Around 20 per cent of children below the age of six (nearly 2 million) have not yet received health insurance cards. What is the reason and what should we do to ensure their rights?
Frankly speaking, children who have no health insurance cards can still receive full health examinations and treatment if they are in possession of birth certificates proving their age.
The granting of cards to children under six has been slow due to ineffective co-operation between provincial and municipal Departments for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and insurance agencies.
In some localities, many births have not been documented while some children have been moved from their places of origin, making the issuance of cards more difficult.
We will propose closer co-operation between health insurance agencies and local people's committees to have sufficient information and statistics on children under six.
The HCM City Health Department decision not to grant health insurance cards to temporary resident children has stirred the public. What do you think?
After gathering information about this issue, the Viet Nam Social Insurance Agency promptly asked the city to revoke its move and to not let the problem filter through to other localities. The Health Insurance Law stipulates that parents can register health insurance cards for their children at their wards even if they are temporary residents.
The universal health insurance plan is awaiting Government approval. What are its targets?
Based on our findings, we have worked out measures for each group. For example, in 2010, students were grouped into compulsory buyers. The compulsory-based rule will be applied to households engaging farming, forestry and fishing jobs by this year-end.
By 2014, the rule will be applicable to all groups.
The plan aims to raise the number of insured to more than 75 per cent by 2015 and about 85 per cent by 2020. That would create stable financial resources to provide people with health care in an equitable and efficient way.
In detail, the plan would see 50 per cent of near-poor people receive health insurance by 2015 and 79 per cent in 2020. The rate among students will be 100 per cent and middle-income households 40 per cent in 2015 and 65 per cent in 2020 while for labourers it will be 75 per cent in 2015 and 90 per cent in 2020.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently decided to raise the support rate for health insurance cards from 50 up to 70 per cent for the borderline poor. How does it help the plan achieve its goals?
The support rate worth 70 per cent of the premium has been implemented since earlier this year. The decision has demonstrated the Government's determination to achieve its plan. Some localities, depending budget, even support about 85-90 per cent.
It means nearly 6 million near-poor people would have a chance to buy insurance cards. However, increased communication is needed to encourage this group to purchase cards before falling sick.
In fact, people are not satisfied with the quality of health care and treament at local health centres, resulting in their reluctance to buy health insurance cards. What do you think?
Health care and treatment for insured patients at local level aims to screen and classify types of diseases. Mild cases of illness would be handled at commune level, and serious ones transferred to higher level. That would help ease hospital overcrowding. In the coming time, the health ministry would pilot a model in which insured patients who want to have check-ups at higher level without visiting the local level would have to pay 30-50 per cent of their hospital fees (instead of 20 per cent if they undergo the normal procedures). — VNS