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  • Sunday ,20 September 2009

An alien health insurance system triggers row

By- The Egyptian Gazette

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Saturday ,19 September 2009

An alien health insurance system triggers row

Egyptian citizens have been warned not to put their faith in the new health insurance bill, due to be submitted for reading in the People's Assembly in its next session next month. It is apparently strewn with landmines that could 'financially explode'

in their faces at any moment, before or after they are admitted to hospital. Sympathising with economically frustrated citizens, economists and deputies, arch foes of the Government, argue that the new bill has been tailored to increase the profits of the private sector insurance agencies. It is also believed that, despite previous promises by the Minister of Health and the Prime minister, patients entitled to shelter under the new health insurance umbrella will discover at the end of the day that they are the ones financing the new system. Dr Mohamed Hassan Khalil, a campaigner for citizens' right to quality State-financed health insurance, says that, in accordance with the new system, the patient will be compelled to pay one-third of the price of the medicines the doctor prescribes him, one-third of the cost of X-rays or MRIs, etc. “The patient will also have to pay no less than 25 per cent of the bill for his treatment,” the physician adds.In the meantime, serious diseases, such as cancer or kidney failure, are likely to be struck off the catalogue of diseases covered by the new health insurance system. The new bill was revealed to the nation on September 2 by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, having been suggested by the Government to help reduce the financial burden on it caused by the classic health insurance system, which allegedly offers medical treatment to all citizens, irrespective of their social status. Impatient to save as much money as it can, the Government invited two major agencies to conduct the feasibility studies for its new health project. Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros Ghali frowned when he looked at the financial conclusions reached by the two British agencies and insisted on inviting a third agency to dispel his fears about what the Government would have to pay according to the new system.Boutros Ghali is said to have hinted that certain chronic and deadly diseases should be deleted from the list of those included in the new health insurance system. The Minister of Finance has been accused of coercing patients to sign insurance contracts with private agencies. An architect of the private health insurance system (which is different from the social health insurance system sponsored by the Government), Dr Ihab Abul Magd, confirms that patients would have to accept the new system and sign contracts with private agencies in some cases. According to the new bill, the Minister of Health would be empowered to order patients suffering from certain diseases to knock at the door of the private health insurance agencies instead. The Minister of Finance's foes say that he has foolishly imported a health insurance system from an alien environment.