CAIRO: Minister of Health Hatem El-Gabali said that low-income citizens will be a priority in the new health insurance draft law the ministry plans to propose at the People’s Assembly.
The objective of the law is to provide citizens with health care, El-Gabali told the National Conference for Youth in Luxor, according to a press statement by the ministry.
Low-income citizens will be highly considered and those who cannot afford to pay health insurance will be exempt from the annual fees and will also be given the medicine free of charge, he explained.
Pensioners will only be required to pay one third of the fee, he added.
The minister also announced at the meeting that starting May, the price of 40 locally produced medicines will be reduced.
The government set in motion plans to change Egypt’s health insurance system four years ago. From the outset, health activists warned that the plans – which will require health insurance beneficiaries to pay a percentage cost of treatment received in hospital as well as a percentage of the cost of medicines – will render treatment under the health insurance system out of reach for many Egyptians.
Last month, political parties and rights activists angrily rejected claims that there is no public opposition to the draft health insurance law which was before the People’s Assembly at the time.
Member of the committee for the defense of the right to health, Mohamed Hassan Khalil, told a press conference that in December 2009 the State Council also issued a non-binding opinion in which it rejected the current draft law, citing the unconstitutionality of 12 of its articles.
It wasn’t the first time.
In September 2008, the government’s plans received a setback when the State Council’s Administrative Court held that a prime ministerial decree which sought to create a holding company for health care and transfer the ownership of all health insurance clinics and hospitals to it was unconstitutional.
Khalil condemned the health minister’s denial of the existence of popular opposition to the draft law, as well as the failure of the government to make public the numerous versions of the law that have been drafted since the last one was published in a newspaper in June 2008.
Due to the strong criticism and opposition, the draft law was recalled and the ministry is currently working on another one.