Finance Committee proposes ceasing Aasandha scheme in private hospitals

Parliament’s Finance Committee has suggested ceasing the country’s universal health care scheme Aasandha in private hospitals, citing that the scheme would not be economically viable unless private hospitals were excluded.

The decision to do so will only be confirmed after parliament passes the committee’s report. If the parliament does pass the report, the Asandha service will only be  available in the government’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and other government health centers and health corporations around the country.

However, medical services that are not currently available in IGMH would still be available from private hospitals and clinics, but the new arrangements would require a doctor’s referral to use such services, according to the report.

The Finance Committee’s report, compiled last week, also suggests that in order to reform the scheme, all political positions including parliamentarians and those for which parliament sets the salaries be excluded from the scheme, and that Auditor General conduct a complete audit of the scheme to ensure the absence of any fraudulent transactions.

Earlier, the Health Ministry suggested to the Finance Committee that a co-payment mechanism be introduced to the scheme in order to mitigate the system’s spiraling costs.

However, members of the committee were keen not to impose any fee on the public, and insisted that the focus of efforts should be on reducing costs and introducing controls that will reduce demand over time.

The scheme came under fire after the new government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan came to power in February 7, which claimed that the scheme’a current rate of expenditure threatened to reach Rf1 billion (US$64.8 million) on an approved budget of Rf720 million (US$46.6 million).

The government has anticipated its annual spending will be Rf2 billion (US$129.6 million) over budget this year, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that economic growth and stability in the Maldives were unlikely to be maintained “in the medium term” unless the government substantially cut its spending.

The President’s Office claimed two weeks ago that figures showing that 150,000 people had used the healthcare scheme a total of 250,000 times indicated that something must have gone wrong with the system.

Minivan News tried contacting Minister of State for Health and Family, Thoriq Ali Luthfee for his comments on the report, but did not respond at the time of press.

Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed was also not responding at time of press.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs, MP Mohamed Shifaaz, MP Ilyas Labeeb and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy criticised Finance Committee’s actions alleging that since the parties supporting the current government have a majority in the Finance Committee, the committee was trying to find excuses to stop the scheme.

The MPs stated that the party would take “all necessary measures” to prevent the government from manipulating the scheme.

Aasandha is a public-private partnership with Allied Insurance. Under the agreement, Allied will split the scheme’s shared 60-40 with the government. The actual insurance premium will be paid by the government, while claims, billing and public awareness will be handled by the private partner.

The service was initially intended to cover emergency treatment, including treatment overseas if not available locally, along with all inpatient and outpatient services, domestic emergency evacuation, medicine under prescription, and diagnostic and therapeutic services.


MP allowances unjustified in current economy: GIP

If the state is unable to reimburse the amount reduced from civil servants’ salaries for MP allowances, then allowances must be reduced, said the Gaumee Iththihaad Party (GIP) in a statement today.

GIP called on the general public to work with the government in reducing state expenditure, while Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik specifically objected to the Rf20,000 committee allowance currently designated for MPs by the Parliamentary Finance Committee, Haveeru reports.

MPs who attend 75 percent or more of parliamentary meetings are eligible for this allowance.

On Thursday, a court case was allegedly filed for a court order asking the Finance Ministry to halt the budget for an MP allowance, which was approved on August 9.

In recent weeks, the Finance Committee also approved a lump sum of Rf140,000 as back-pay for MPs. The bonus would cost the state Rf10 million; the state deficit is currently Rf1.3 billion.

The decision to give the Rf20,000 committee allowance has been protested by politicians and civil society members. Concerned citizens also protested the recent bonus of Rf140,000 last month.