VICTORIA FALLS, September 14 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s health funders paid $400 million last year for services ranging from hospitalisation, drugs and laboratory tests, making the country one of the most expensive on the continent despite its comparatively low per capita income, industry statistics have shown.
The southern African country’s health costs are more than twice that of regional rivals South Africa and Zambia and Asian giant India, according to official data.
Shylet Sanyanga, the chief executive of Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) — which has a membership of 27 medical insurance companies in the country — said membership for medical aid firms fell 31 percent to 400,000 last year, but still collected $400 million in subsccriptions which was all swallowed by the high cost of service.
“AHFoZ members paid $400 million in 2014 – money which was paid to various service providers. The largest amount went to private hospitals where $146 million was paid. Drugs cost $53 million while
$62 million was paid towards investigative services,” Sanyanga said at the AHFoZ annual conference in Victoria Falls last week.
Specialist services accounted for $41 million, dentists $25 million and general practitioners $18 million while government and mission hospitals received payments of $6 million.
“This shows how our healthcare is given at a higher level than at primary care level which should be affordable,” she said.
Sanyanga said of concern was an increasing number of service providers against a depleted membership cake and called for a price correction in the sector.
“There is a need to cut costs. The healthcare sector is the only sector that is yet to go through price correction. Service providers should reduce their fees so that funders can reduce their subscriptions,” Sanyanga said.
“There is need for transparency by all parties pertaining to costs because it is not clear what drives variances in pricing as the same drug may cost between $4 and $80 in different pharmacies while general practitioner consultation fees range between $5 and $50.”
The chairperson of Private Hospitals of Zimbabwe, Merissa Kambani, said there were reports of locals joining foreign medical aid schemes and seeking treatment in neighbouring countries where it is cheaper and called for unity in the sector.
“There is a need for a federation of health players so we can lobby with one voice. At the moment we are fragmented and fighting individual wars when we should be approaching authorities as a united body with shared objectives,” Kambani said.