Uganda's Parliament has passed the long-awaited National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Bill, which seeks to provide universal healthcare to all citizens.
The legislators had rejected Health State Minister in charge of general duties Robinah Nabanja’s motion to withdraw the Bill, reported Daily Monitor. Ms Nabanja said the government wanted to withdraw the Bill pending more analysis and consultation with other stakeholders on the premiums to be charged under the scheme.
She had declined to move the motion for the second reading of the Bill but shortly after she left Parliament, lawmakers agreed to move the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
Dr Micheal Bukenya, the chairperson of the Parliament Health Committee, said the controversial clauses relating to premiums that had held up the enactment of the Bill were removed, for more consultations to be carried out. He said that contributions to the scheme shall be based on actuarial computations.
The Bill now awaits the President’s signature to become law. Legislators also agreed that the scheme will be implemented in phases.
The Bill had previously proposed that employees in the formal sector be subjected to a 4% deduction from their salaries while their employers would contribute 1% of workers' salaries to the universal health insurance scheme. Individuals in the informal sector would be required to pay a proposed UGX100,000 ($27.40) annually. However, the proposed contributions ran into fierce opposition.
Mr Achilles Kiwanuka, a programme officer with Partners in Population and Development's Africa Regional Office, a non-governmental organisation, said that discussions on the NHIS started in the early 1990’s and have slowly evolved over the years. The Cabinet approved the Bill in 2019 and it was tabled on the floor of Parliament in August 2019.