VAST SCOPE EXISTS IN HEALTH INSURANCE

KANWAL SALEEM
Apr 14 - 20, 2008

LAHORE: Health Insurance is a common practice in Europe and other developed countries but Pakistan is one of the third world countries where the government is offering hardly any or little incentive to downtrodden masses in the form of health insurance.

In Pakistan, out of the population of over 160 million, there are estimated 30 million bread earners out of whom there are only five million people who are insured. Therefore, there exists vast scope for the promotion of insurance industry in Pakistan.

Health insurance is very important for every citizen but unfortunately its ratio is very dismal in the country. The government is offering no health insurance cover to the masses badly hit by food inflation. The people were facing escalating price hike while increase in petroleum, vegetable ghee and oil prices and transport fares are jolting the countrymen.

The Federal Government is currently in the process of streamlining a 'National Health Insurance Policy'. This will definitely help people belonging to all segments of society to avail quality medical care across the country.

Principal Regional Training Academy State Life Insurance, Lahore, Sultan Ahmed Sheikh told PAGE that health insurance is very important for every citizen but unfortunately its ratio is too low in the country and major reasons for not opting to health insurance are meager resources and lacking awareness. Poverty, low income, low literacy rate and increasing inflation are other major reasons behind people not opting for health insurance.

He said the government is main player in health insurance cover and by announcing 'National Health Insurance Policy' directions could be put in place. Health Insurance Policy can be launched in a phased manner in the country. First, particular segments such as employees of public and private sectors, journalists, etc., should be selected for this scheme and afterward its scope should be extended to whole. The government is spending substantial amount on health cover and the health insurance scheme can be introduced on the pattern of Group Insurance Scheme.

Allianz EFU was formed in 2000 with the joint venture between Allianz and EFU Group. Today Allianz EFU is known as "the health insurance company" due to its innovative products, personalized services and state-of-the-art IT system.

A spokesman of the Allianz EFU told this scribe that his company is market leader in health insurance in Pakistan with over 35% of the market share. With focus on providing innovative and customized healthcare solutions for corporate and consumer segments, he said: ""we are most experienced in handling the healthcare needs of large/jumbo groups. Allianz EFU is the only company to develop and introduce an insured out-patient product. It is the first company to launch health insurance schemes for individuals and families.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led coalition government in Punjab has formed various Working Groups to make recommendations on various sectors, such as health, education, industry, SMEs, agriculture, law & order. The Working Group formed on health has also been assigned the task of making recommendations for health insurance scheme.

According to PML-N President Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N government is going to introduce far reaching revolutionary steps to ameliorate the lot of people of the province. He said the Working Group on Health has been assigned the task of making recommendations for introducing Health Insurance Scheme so that people of the province could get proper medical cover.

Experts who deal with the insurance matters told this scribe that it is prime responsibility of the government to create awareness and motivate the masses to opt health insurance. The more public will opt for it the more it will boost the economy, they said. ""Pakistan is one of the third world countries where the government is offering hardly any or little incentive to downtrodden masses in the form of health insurance, a common practice in Europe and other developed world," they added.

Moreover, stake holders in insurance industry said that as compared to other countries, in Pakistan there is no trend of opting for health insurance on individual level. Though most of the multinational companies in Pakistan provide health cover to their employees after incurring huge expenditures but not all, they added.

If government provides appropriate and required health cover to the people it would definitely affect the economy of the country and will help tackle health issues, they said.

Health professionals told this scribe that the existing health policy does not provide health insurance for the general masses. However, the government is facilitating the common people by providing them health cards. There is a dire need to have a health insurance for every individual, they added. It would earn good name for the government on one hand while help provide quality treatment to needy people, they concluded.