August 21, 2012
The government will soon launch a national health insurance fund, rolling together all existing health insurance schemes and expanding services to all the multi-ethnic Lao people.
Deputy Minister of Health Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong told Vientiane Times yesterday that the main aim is to enable Lao people in all ethnic groups to access health services and alleviate poverty in society.
“The national health insurance fund will contribute to improving health services in Laos and enable the poor to access health services on an equal basis” he said.
The health insurance fund is a way for Lao people to help one another to access health services and ensure that Laos can realise the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he said.
The Health Ministry is drafting a decree on the National Health Insurance Fund to define principles and measures required to properly manage and use the fund.
The decree was approved in principle by the government at its monthly meeting in June, but it asked the Ministry of Health to make some changes to ensure the comprehensiveness of the decree.
“I think that the scheme can start next year but I don’t think we can have this scheme done in all provinces in only one year,” Dr Bounkong said, saying that the scheme can start in some provinces and be extended to the rest of the country later on.
Currently, Laos has set up a health insurance scheme for government officials and company workers but the government wants to expand this scheme to cover all people, particularly the poor.
A major stumbling block is the fact that some rich people do not want to join the health insurance scheme, claiming that the health services offered under the scheme do not reach their expectations.
Currently, many Lao people cross over to Thailand to seek medical treatment, as they perceive standards to be higher there. Economic growth in Laos has meant that many Lao people have more money, and can afford the cost of expensive hospitals offering high quality services.
Dr Bounkong accepted that health services in Laos need to improve in order to discourage Lao people from crossing the border to seek medical treatment in Thailand.
One of the main challenges is the fact that the government budget to the health sector is small in comparison to the needs of the sector.
According to a report from the Ministry of Finance, the government set the budget for the health sector at nine percent of its total budget expenditure for 2012-13, equal to 893.26 billion kip in total.
Government spokesperson Ms Bounpheng Mounphosay told Vientiane Times at a press conference recently that the government would contribute some budget funding to the scheme, while members of the public will be required to contribute, alongside private companies.
Many Lao people who have already joined the health insurance scheme said they fully support the government’s health scheme as it has helped them save a lot of money when they face major health problems which require expensive operations.