Egypt sees rise in gov’t health care insurance costs
Egypt sees rise in gov’t health care insurance costs
Thursday, April 15,2010 09:09
By Joseph Mayton

CAIRO: For Sherif al-Ageez, health care is a luxury. He lives on around LE 15 ($2.75) per day and has three children and a wife to take care of, he says. Hospitals are hard to get to and he is only able to go to the public doctors if there is a problem.

“Life is hard for us, but we can’t complain right now,” he begins. “We are all quite healthy and looking to the future for better things.”

At least they have insurance right now, he says. He had been bought the basic coverage needed over the past five years for his family and a few distant relatives. “This is going to change, I fear,” he said.

Making matters more difficult for Ageez and his family will be the doubling of state medical insurance as the government looks to narrow an ever expanding budget deficit at the state-run Medical Insurance Authority.

Also part of the plan will be the increase in cigarette prices by some 10 percent.

Monthly medical insurance fees will go from four Egyptian pounds to 8, which means for Ageez and his family, that would be an additional LE 30.

“That’s three days work? Don’t they think they should also increase our wages for this kind of thing,” he says, frustrated at the move.

“The deficit will reach 170 million pounds this year compared to 168 million pouds last year,” said Hatem el-Gabali, the country’s Health Minister, who was quoted by local newspapers as saying.

“The increase in subscription fees will give us an additional 70 million pounds while the proposed cigarette tax will bring in the same amount,” he added.

The United Nations news agency IRIN reported in February that hundreds of thousands of poor Egyptians like Ageez were being denied health care because of a financial dispute between the government and hospitals.

The ministry is supposed to provide free healthcare to millions of Egyptians outside the state health insurance system, IRIN said.

Tell that to families struggling to make ends meet. Without health insurance, these families will be forced to borrow money for operations and check-ups. It is a tough time to be a worker in Egypt, Ageez said.

“I hope we can learn to treat our people better and respect our needs. Health is very important and hopefully it gets sorted out,” he added.

Republished with permission from bikya masr